BROCKTON, Mass. (WHDH) -
A judge is under fire over what the state Fire Marshal is calling a dangerous plea deal for two men found guilty of setting a string of fires on the South Shore.
A Middleboro man and his stepson did get sentenced to prison on Friday in dozens of arson fires on the South Shore and in Southeastern Mass., but that is not enough for some fire chiefs.
"I am outraged at the plea deal offered today to this father and stepson team of serial arsonists," said State Fire Marshal Stephen Coan. "I concur with the district attorney that a fair sentence for these three fires includes significant jail time, not the 1-3 years they have been offered by the judge."
Mark Sargent, 46, appeared in court on Friday to plead guilty but he seemed to change his mind when the moment of truth came.
“I think he was confused. It's confusing and an overwhelming situation. It was packed it was overwhelming to him,” said Defense Attorney Edwards Sharkansky.
Sargent pled guilty to three of the arson fires and got sentenced to up to three years in jail. Prosecutors wanted up to 12 years.
His stepson got one year for a fire in West Bridgewater.
“Based on the defendant's lack of record and the sentencing guidelines, I believe the sentences that I indicated I would impose are the appropriate sentences,” said Judge Carol Ball.
It’s disappointing for fire officials and unnerving for people like Ralph Pratt, who suffered $75,000 in damage after a fire at a boatyard in Marshfield.
“Is it going to happen again? There are they going to attack my son's boat the next time around or burn down our house? What did we do wrong?” Pratt said.
"Arson is not a victimless crime and a series of arsons creates an understandable fear that robs people of feeling secure in their own homes where they should feel safest," said Coan in a statement.
Crews will continue to investigate the other arson fires.
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