Christopher Erwin Clark Sentenced in U.S. District Cour
The United States Attorney's Office announced that during a federal court session in Missoula, on January 5, 2011, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah C. Lynch, CHRISTOPHER ERWIN CLARK, a 26-year-old resident of Dillon, appeared for sentencing. CLARK was sentenced to a term of:
- Probation: 2 years
- Special Assessment: $25
- Restitution: $1,110.97
CLARK was sentenced in connection with his guilty plea to damage to government property.
In an Offer of Proof filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Racicot, the government stated it would have proved at trial the following:
On October 17, 2009, CLARK, Kyle Zimmerman, and "S.K." lit and attempted to light trees on fire in the Black Mountain area of the Dillon Ranger District in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. The trees were dead or dying due to pine beetle infestation.
On October 18, 2009, Zimmerman and CLARK lit trees on fire in the Birch Creek area of the Dillon Ranger District in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest.
The officers who investigated the fires observed and preserved somewhat distinctive tire tracks from the Birch Creek area as well as a metal decal from a "Tuff Country" vehicle suspension lift kit. Those items of evidence suggested Zimmerman as a possible suspect in the fires. When he was interviewed on November 2 and 9, 2009, Zimmerman admitted to setting some fires. He said that other people were with him, but would not reveal their names and claimed that they did not start any fires. Zimmerman was interviewed a third time on March 17, 2010. During that interview, he admitted that CLARK and "S.K." were present on October 17, 2009, and also admitted that CLARK started some fires.
On May 13, 2010, "S.K." was also interviewed about the fires. He stated that he was present with Zimmerman and CLARK on October 17, 2009, and that both Zimmerman and CLARK started fires. "S.K." said he tried to start some fires on October 17, 2009, but his lighter would not work. He also stated that CLARK tried to convince him to start additional fires in the Birch Creek area and in another area known as the East Ridge.
CLARK, who is currently employed with the Forest Service as a fire-fighter, was a temporary employee in October 2009 and was involved in the suppression effort for the Birch Creek fires. When he was interviewed on March 18, 2010, he said he had no involvement in the fires.
A.W. was interviewed on March 22, 2010. She is CLARK's ex-girlfriend. She reported that on one occasion, when he was drunk, CLARK told her that he, Zimmerman, and "S.K." set trees on fire in the Black Mountain area. When she asked him about it later, he denied any involvement.
L.N. was interviewed on May 1, 2010. She is "S.K.'s" girlfriend. She said "S.K.", Zimmerman and CLARK set fires in Black Mountain, but "S.K." was not present at Birch Creek. At Black Mountain, she said his lighter did not work so he was not able to light any fires. Later, she heard CLARK telling "S.K." not to say anything to anyone about their presence at the scene of the fires.
Zimmerman pled guilty to federal charges and has been sentenced.
Because there is no parole in the federal system, the "truth in sentencing" guidelines mandate that he will likely serve all of the time imposed by the court. In the federal system, he does have the opportunity to earn a sentence reduction for "good behavior." However, this reduction will not exceed 15% of the overall sentence.
The investigation was conducted by the Law Enforcement and Investigations Division of the Forest Service.