GREENVILLE — One of two defendants accused of multiple arson acts around the county that included the destruction of the Swine Barn at the Darke County Fairgrounds was in court Monday.
Christopher L. Garland, 30, gave a change of plea before Judge Jonathan P. Hein in Darke County Common Pleas Court.
It was in July that the Darke County Grand Jury returned a 57 count indictment against Garland and Randy R. Mogle, 30, both of Greenville. The two men were arrested for 44 counts of arson, fourth-degree felonies, three counts of aggravated arson, second-degree felonies, and eight counts of aggravated arson, first-degree felonies, one count of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, a first-degree felony, and conspiracy to engage in a pattern of corrupt activity, a second-degree felony.
The indictments were the result of a joint investigation by the Greenville Police Department, Darke County Sheriff’s Office, Greenville Fire Department, and the State Fire Marshal’s Office.
The fires date back as far as June 2014 and up to the latest arson reported in May 2019.
The indictments included the Swine Barn fire from October 2018.
As part of the plea agreement, counts 1 to 32, and counts 34 to 55, and count 57 were dismissed, with Garland pleading guilty to count 56, an amended charge of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity to a first-degree felony, and to count 33, aggravated arson, a first-degree felony, related to the Swine Barn.
Judge Hein proceeded to sentence Garland to the surprise of many in the courtroom with Darke County Fair Manager Brian Rismiller arriving in time to hear Garland’s sentencing.
Garland was sentenced to five years for count 33 and five years for count 56 for a total of ten years to be served consecutively in the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction with 88 days jail credit.
As explained by Judge Hein, while the defendant was only charged on two counts, the engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity (similar to racketeering or Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations, also known as RICO) inherits or carries with it all the other counts.
While Assistant Prosecutor James Bennett stated the restitution numbers were still a work-in-progress, he cited the current amount as between $98,000 to $99,000.
Garland had no comment in regards to the reasons behind the multiple arson acts when questioned by Judge Hein.
Along with the 10-year sentence, Garland will be required to register as an arson offender for the remainder of his life after release and will be under mandatory post-release supervision for five years.
Rismiller, who had a written statement prepared but with expectations the sentencing would be for another day, was at a loss for words. He expressed being torn between “The Christian side of me” before citing the judge has a good feel and to trust his judgment, but “it’s still frustrating.”
Reach reporter Bethany J. Royer-DeLong at 937/548-3330 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more news, features, and sports at DarkeCountyMedia.com.