US teen ordered to repay NZ$53m for forest fire
The Oregonian reports that Hood River County Circuit Judge John A Olson issued the opinion on Monday (local time), awarding the restitution totaling US$36,618,330.24 to cover the costs of firefighting, repair and restoration to the gorge and damage to homes. Victims include the US Forest Service and Oregon Department of Transportation.
The 15-year-old from Vancouver, Washington, earlier this year acknowledged wrongdoing and said he threw two fireworks in Eagle Creek Canyon on September 2 when flames spread quickly. The fire caused evacuations, an extended shutdown of a major interstate highway and devastation to a major outdoor tourist attraction.
The judge's order notes that the boy can set up a payment plan, though payments can be halted after 10 years as long as he complies, completes probation and doesn't commit other crimes.
At a hearing last week, the boy's lawyer urged for a "reasonable and rational' penalty, calling the US$37 million sought an "absurd' amount for the child. The restitution is solely the responsibility of the teen, and not his parents, who came to the US from Ukraine.
Olson called it "an extraordinary amount' and then deferred on a separate restitution order because he wanted more time to review the case. The judge said the largest figure he could find for prior juvenile restitution cases in Oregon was US$114,000.
The teen in February pleaded guilty to reckless burning of public and private property and other charges. Olson sentenced him to community service and probation, and the boy had to write more than 150 letters of apology to those affected by the fire that burned 75 square miles (194 square km).
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