18-year-old Jamison Gallion pleads guilty to 2 counts of arson in Two Rivers fires
FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - UPDATED CORRECTION: Age of Jamison Gallion was earlier reported as 19. Jamison Gallion is 18 years old.
In 2021, the small community of Two Rivers, Alaska was hit by a string of arsons that kept many area residents worried for their safety and property. They now have some answers as the man accused of setting the town ablaze pled guilty to two counts of Arson in the First Degree on Friday, May 20.
Around 8:30 a.m., Friday, May 20, 2022, in Room 401 at the Rabinowitz Courthouse in Fairbanks, Alaska, several arson victims and residents listened closely in person and telephonically as Jamison Cloyd Gallion entered a guilty plea on two felony charges related to arson.
Gallion confessed to the arsons that took place at the residence of Donald and Virginia McKee on July 3, 2021. He also pled guilty to a separate arson of the Two Rivers Lodge that happened on August 23, 2021.
The McKees were present in the courtroom gallery along with other victims of the 2021 arsons. Wayne Shea, from the Pleasant Valley Free Store and the Two Rivers Community Center joined the McKees. Clyde Denny was also present. His property on Melan Road, just past the Two Rivers Community Church was allegedly targeted. There also several other alleged victims listening closely as Gallion and his attorney Kenneth Covell explained why they chose to make this decision.
“So Judge, this case was something of unusual posture since he confessed to two-thirds of the alleged arsons 7 or 8 months ago,” said Covell. “Since that time I have solicited an offer to the prosecution and haven’t gotten it. In an attempt to move the case down the field here, we are prepared to enter a guilty plea on two counts, the two most serious ones. The arsons 1, count 7 which is the McKee residence and count 17, which is the Two Rivers Lodge and go forward from there.”
18-year-old, Gallion listened as Fairbanks Superior Court Judge Paul Lyle reiterated the charges brought before him.
Judge Lyle asked “So the defendant wants to enter a guilty plea to counts 7, Arson in the First Degree, the fire at the McKee residence that occurred July 3, 2021?”
“Correct,” said Covell.
“And count 17, fire at the Two Rivers Lodge?” Lyle reaffirmed.
Covell answered, “Correct.”
“So just to be clear, there are two other counts related to each one of these fires, Criminal Mischief in the First Degree, and Arson in the First Degree, apparently for a separate living structure on the McKee’s residence,” answered Lyle.
The Judge asked State Prosecutor Renner St. John for an explanation.
“Your Honor, my understanding is that there were two structures and both of them were occupied and used as a residence, and there was another family living next door in that second structure,” St. John explained. “It was the fire that started in the main McKee Residence, that did indeed burn the other residence that was located on the property.”
Judge Lyle asked the Mckees directly if that information was accurate.
“All three of them burned,” said Donald McKee. “There were five separate structures from that one fire.”
Gallion pled not guilty to the other residence on the McKee’s property (count 19), in which the victims stated in the original report this was a direct result of the fire that burned their home.
Gallion also plead not guilty to count 18, Criminal Mischief in the First Degree at the Two Rivers Lodge as well as count 20, which is directed to the apartment above the Two Rivers Lodge.
Lyle explained that Arson in the First Degree is a Class A felony.
“You can be placed in jail if convicted of a Class A Felony, which you will be today because you pleaded guilty, for a maximum of 20 years and you can be fined up to $250,000 dollars,” said the Judge.
“Is this a first Felony offense?” he asked.
“Yes Judge,” Gallion’s Attorney replied.
“On the First Felony offense, without aggravators, the presumed term is 4 to 7 years. If however you possessed a firearm or used a dangerous instrument or cause serious physical injury or death in the during the events on a Class A Felony, the presumed term is 7 to 11 years. If it was a second felony offense the presumed term would be 10 to 14 years, and if it was for presumed term it would be 20 years,” Lyle explained.
The State has filed notice of aggravated C-6 in this case, stating Gallion’s conduct created injury to three or more persons. Judge Lyle also noted that the State also filed notice of aggravator C-9, meaning that the defendant, Gallion, knew the offense involved more than one victim.
“They are what we call Jury Aggravators, meaning that they have to be found by a jury at trial and have to be established beyond reasonable doubt,” the Judge explained. “If those aggravators are established, even though this is a first Felony offense, the court can impose up to maximum sentencing in each of these counts. It may apply to these counts, if they apply to these counts, and they established beyond reasonable doubt. So, I want you to understand that in this case, if you have mitigators and the court finds the mitigators apply, by clear and convincing evidence, and if the 4 to 7 range for a first Felony offense applies to you, the court can take the sentence down from zero if the aggravators are established beyond a reasonable doubt by a jury it can go up to 20 years”
Judge Lyle also noted to the defendant that the cases before him were all separate. “The other things that you need to establish, that I need you to understand is that these are two separate arsons. They are committed with separate victims on separate dates so the time imposed on each count can be consecutive or partially consecutive, meaning it could be 20 years plus 20 years, or 40 years. Do you understand?”
“Yes your Honor,” Gallion responded.
“On the remaining charges as well as the charges you are facing right now if you don’t plead guilty, you are presumed innocent of the charges and the state has the burden of proving that each and every element of each of the counts that they had filed against you beyond a reasonable doubt,” Lyle said. “There are two ways this trial can occur at your request and with consent of the State, the judge assigned to this case, which is me could try this case and I could determine guilt or innocence on my own. If you don’t request that, or if you request and the State does not consent to it, then there will be jury trial. You are charged with felonies, so there will be 12 members of the jury. As I have already told you, whether you are tried by judge or by jury you are presumed innocent of charges.”
Judge Lyle has set forth a trial Date Setting Conference for June 27, 2022 where all parties will reconvene and discuss on a date for trial.
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