Healdsburg arsonist gets 5-year sentence

June 24, 2009 12:52:01 PM PDT
A Healdsburg man was sentenced to five years and four months in state prison Wednesday morning in Sonoma County Superior Court for arsons at local businesses three years ago.

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However, 30-year-old Henry Scholten will spend only about four months in prison because of credit for time served in the Sonoma County jail and at a mental health hospital since his arrest on February 22, 2006, Deputy Public Defender Jeff Mitchell said.

He accumulated more than 1,700 days credit for time served, or about four years and eight months, Mitchell said. That leaves eight months but Scholten will have to serve only half that amount, Mitchell said. "It will be a quick turn around," Mitchell said.

Scholten, whose mental competence fluctuated during the past three years depending on whether he was on or off medication, asked Judge Ken Gnoss to "let the nightmare be over" and send him home to his family.

He said "death would have been a better sentence."

"The laws are too strict. We need more mercy and compassion shown to boneheads like me. It's time to start forgiving and time for peace."

"Free the people," Scholten concluded.

Scholten was charged in connection with setting four fires at three unoccupied Healdsburg businesses within five blocks of each other between Feb. 15 and 19, 2006. The fires caused an estimated $500,000 in damage.

He was arrested after a woman told police she recorded a conversation with Scholten during which he admitted setting the fires.

He was held to answer to the arson charges after a preliminary hearing but never went to trial.

Psychologists who examined him over the years gave conflicting opinions on Scholten's ability to understand the legal proceedings. At one point Scholten said he believed Mitchell had magical powers that would enable him to be freed and avoid a trial. On more than one occasion he told court personnel he just wanted to go home.

He spent some of his time in custody at Atascadero State Hospital.

He pleaded no contest in May to two of the four felony arson charges, both of which count as strikes. The two other charges were dismissed as part of the plea agreement.

Gnoss told Scholten another felony conviction would be his third strike, subjecting him to a 25-years-to-life prison term.

Mitchell said Scholten will probably be on parole for three or four years after he gets out of prison.

Gnoss also ordered Scholten to pay more than $30,000 in restitution to the Healdsburg, Rincon Valley and Windsor fire departments that responded to the fires.

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