Accused arsonists in Beckett Point fire to entire diversion program

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — Three juveniles accused of setting a Labor Day fire that threatened homes at Beckett Point will be entered into a diversion program, said a Jefferson County deputy prosecuting attorney.

The juveniles, two 12-year-olds and an 11-year-old, caused the fire when they tried to light bottle rockets using a spray can of the rust inhibitor WD-40 as an accelerant, said the Jeff­erson County Sheriff’s Office.

Sheriff Tony Hernandez said after the fire that the three boys, who were not named because of their age, admitted to lighting the Labor Day wildfire that quickly spread over more than 21 acres on a steep bluff overlooking Beckett Point, a village of expensive homes on Discovery Bay about eight miles southwest of Port Townsend.

It cost more than $100,000 to fight, the state Department of Natural Resources said.

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Cheryl Potebnya said Monday she was satisfied with the resolution of the case.

“I feel this is the right decision, and it has the support of the community and those who were directly involved,” she said.

Potebnya said none of the juveniles had a criminal history, and the crimes they are legally exposed to are at the gross misdemeanor and misdemeanor level.

Potebnya would not say when the diversion would begin, only that the juveniles had been notified about the ruling.

Reviewed files

Potebnya said she spent a considerable amount of time reviewing the case files.

“I went out to the site of the incident and saw firsthand what was alleged,” she said.

“I also attended a board meeting of the homeowners association at Beckett Point seeking information and input from the board and explained to the board what the juveniles were exposed to legally,” she added.

Additionally, the homeowners were provided with the opportunity to submit written statements to the prosecutor to describe how this incident has impacted them, she said.

Diversion programs

While not allowed to discuss the specific case, Potebnya outlined how diversion programs generally operate.

A diverted juvenile must go before a community accountability board — or CAB — which is composed of three trained volunteers from the community overseen by juvenile services.

The board then drafts a contract between the juvenile and the community that outlines what the juvenile must do or not do to make amends.

Diversions usually run for a period of three to six months.

If restitution is still owed after six months, the diversion can be extended.

A diversion is considered a part of the juvenile’s criminal history until the age of 18.

After that, if the juvenile has no other criminal charges, the record is destroyed.

If a juvenile fails the diversion and does not fulfill the obligations of the diversion contract, the diversion will be terminated and the case referred back to the prosecutor to bring formal criminal charges.

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Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at charlie.bermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: November 01. 2011 10:47PM
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