Utah man who acknowledged setting fire that caused $6 million in damage gets 4 years in prison

Associated Press

A Utah electrician who acknowledged starting a fire last year that caused $6 million in damage to an unfinished Salt Lake City apartment building was sentenced Wednesday to four years in prison and ordered to pay restitution.

At a federal court hearing, 35-year-old Dustin Bowman of Bountiful apologized for his actions.

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The February 2014 nighttime blaze could be seen for miles, but no one was inside the downtown building at the time, and no one was injured.

Bowman was ordered to pay $3 million in restitution that will go to insurance companies and local businesses affected by the fire. He must pay at least $15 a month while in prison and a minimum of $400 a month when he's out of prison.

"The last few years have been really bad with addiction," Bowman said. "I've thrown away a lot in my life because of these actions and my addiction."

He said he grew up in a family with addiction and realized too late how addiction impacted his life. He said he lost his marriage and didn't take advantage of a college degree because of his inability to overcome a drug problem.

Bowman pleaded guilty to arson as part of a deal with prosecutors in December.

U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart told Bowman he considered his remorse to be sincere, and agreed to recommend that Bowman serve time in a Colorado prison to be close to family.

Stewart also ordered Bowman to be under court supervision for three years after he's done in prison. Bowman will get drug testing and mental health evaluations.

Prosecutor Mark Vincent of the U.S. Attorney's Office in Utah called it a fair resolution to the case.

Bowman told fire investigators he worked as an electrician at the construction site. He said he returned to the site that night to smoke spice, a synthetic form of marijuana, prosecutors said.

Bowman lit a piece of cardboard and tossed it into a bathtub leaning against a wood wall, according to court documents.

Court records show that when asked about his motive, Bowman said: "Maybe I wanted to see the fire department."

Bowman's attorney, Jamie Zenger, on Wednesday told the judge that Bowman was very remorseful.

"He had no intention of burning a building down and causing millions of dollars in damage," Zenger said. "It was a horrible mistake."

Stewart told Bowman, wearing a black and white prison suit, that there is no reason he can't become a contributing member of society when he's out of prison — so long as he kicks his addiction.

Bowman's family was in court, and he turned around while speaking to thank them for their support. They declined to comment after the hearing.