PEKIN — The arsonist convicted of setting fire to Goodfellas Smokehouse in November was sentenced Friday to three years in prison.
Scott Sutherland, 34, of Pekin, his voice quivering as he read a prepared statement to Judge Paul Gilfillan before sentencing, told the judge he did not intend to hurt anyone or do damage and that his actions were brought on by a drunken stupor.
Beside him on the defence table were two pictures of his children. He told the judge he just wanted to get back to them and support them and be with his family. He said he took complete responsibility for his actions.
Sutherland will serve approximately six months of his sentence after day-for-day good behavior and credit for 197 days in custody at the Tazewell County Justice Center. He will pay $16,621.18 in restitution for his crime. A motion for a new trial was denied. He was sentenced to two years of probation.
During the Nov. 1 trial, Gilfillan watched a video of Sutherland smearing some sort of oil along the walls of Goodfellas before dawn on June 1 before two fires were discovered.
Sutherland, a cook and accountant at the bar and restaurant, said in his statement Friday that the oil was Italian salad dressing and he did not intend to burn the building. He said he would never have “suspected that it was a fire accelerant.” He said his career in finance is gone due to his conviction.
“The only important thing I have left are my two little girls and my family,” he said.
Assistant State’s Attorney Cassandra Mullikan argued that the arson, even though there were no injuries and damage was not extensive, said that the act was an “extremely serious offence that could have gone terribly, terribly, terribly wrong.” Mullikan said there were approximately 20 people in the strip mall where the bar is located at the time the fire department arrived and found a blaze on the stove and a burned area in the hallway. Oil had been smeared on the walls and floor.
Mullikan said his actions “threatened serious harm.”
“Thank goodness the defendant was not very good at this,” she said. “... The defendant’s conduct threatened serious harm 100 percent. ... His intent was a massive fireball.”
She said the court should “not reward (Sutherland) for incompetence, it should punish him for intent.”
Defence Attorney John Lonergan said Sutherland’s crime was similar to a DUI. He said every crime has the potential for harm. In a DUI, someone could hit a school bus with children in it, a gas station and cause an explosion, but in a simple DUI the defendant does not see jail time.
“The basis of a sentence should not be what could have gone wrong,” said Lonergan. He argued that Sutherland’s intent was not to cause a fire. He said his actions were more of a “reckless” behavior.
Gilfillan said that an arson is a Class 2 felony, not at all the same as a DUI, which on the first offense is a Class A misdemeanor. He said a prison sentence is necessary to deter others from committing arson.
Follow Sharon Woods Harris at Twitter.com/sharrispekin