GREENVILLE – A Greenville man was sentenced for arson in Darke County Common Pleas Court Wednesday, and when asked by the judge if he had any comment before sentencing, he replied only, “I had nothing to do with this. I’m sticking with ‘I didn’t do it.’”
Tony Bandedo, 39, of Greenville, was sentenced to 45 days in jail and five years of community control sanctions for his part in stealing and destroying his own car by fire, ostensibly for the purpose of having the insurance company pay off the car. The insurance company, however, denied the claim, leaving Bandedo liable for the expense anyway. He was convicted of arson, a felony of the third degree, and also is required to register as a convicted arsonist.
Bandedo also was ordered to pay restitution of $1,224.66 to the county prosecutor’s office and $2,341.37 to State Farm Insurance Co. for investigative costs, and to complete 100 hours of community service.
The state, represented by Darke County Assistant Prosecutor Deborah Quigley, recommended restitution for the prosecutor’s office and State Farm for their investigative costs, as well as restitution to State Farm for a rental car provided to Bandedo during the fraudulent claim and to the salvage yard that took the burned vehicle.
The presentence report indicated that Bandedo – based on his employment, personal and criminal history – was a low risk to reoffend.
“While the defendant may be at a low risk to reoffend,” Quigley told the court, “this offense is higher as a felony of the third degree. It is an offense of violence. The defendant in taking this action does something that has a direct effect on everyone because trying to scam an insurance company has direct effects on everyone in what they have to pay for insurance.”
The state recommended that a prison term would be appropriate, even as a first offense.
Bandedo’s attorney, Daniel O’Brien, filed a post-trial motion on March 30 asking the court to enter a judgment of acquittal or a new trial. Judge Hein said he was denying the motion, stating, “The court does not find sufficient reason to interfere with the verdict of the jury. While there could be different conclusions that might be made by myself, that’s not the test.”
Hein did acknowledge that the jury sent out a message “toward the latter part of the day” when they were deliberating that indicated they were, at that time, in a 6-6 position on the verdict. Hein said the jury came back with a guilty verdict about 35 minutes later.
Prior to sentencing, O’Brien noted that his client had multiple opportunities to settle the case on more favorable terms than the jury conviction would bring, but he denied those plea deals to maintain his innocence throughout the process.
“It is our position, with the greatest respect and admiration for the jury system, that the jury just got it wrong in this case,” O’Brien said.
“Based on 55 years of (practicing law),” O’Brien continued, “I would be amazed to find out that my client was, in fact, guilty of these charges, based upon everything I know, everything I’ve seen, all the chances that we had to make a better deal, and the absence of really basic proof when you look at the case from afar, objectively, and see what’s missing.”
Hein questioned the state on the failure to prosecute a “principal offender,” or the person who actually burned the vehicle. Quigley said there was insufficient evidence to bring a case against the suspected person, as both he and Bandedo continued to deny involvement. Quigley said the only way to proceed against the principal offender would be with Bandedo’s cooperation.
Regarding the sentence, Hein noted Bandedo has no criminal history.
“The presumption of the (state) legislature these days is that prison can always be used later (if community sanctions are violated), we should try community sanctions, so we’re gonna try community sanctions.”
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