Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Busby gets probation for house fire

Attorney says defendant already punished for torching own home


By TERRY SMITH
Express Staff Writer

Patrick S. Busby

Hailey attorney Keith Roark successfully kept his client out of jail, as sentence was pronounced Monday for a formerly out-of-work construction contractor who lit his own house on fire last May.

Roark argued that jail would serve no purpose for Patrick S. Busby, who is working again and has since the fire undergone psychiatric counseling and extensive alcohol rehabilitation treatment.

"He has done everything that any human being could do to atone for his mistake," Roark said.

Sentence was pronounced in Blaine County 5th District Court by Judge Robert J. Elgee, who gave Busby an 11-year suspended prison sentence, placed him on probation for five years, imposed a $2,000 fine and ordered that Busby continue psychiatric counseling and treatment for alcoholism.

The Blaine County Prosecuting Attorney's Office requested that Busby also receive a six-month jail sentence.

Busby, 43, pleaded guilty to first-degree arson in November for intentionally lighting the home at 67 East Fork Rd. on fire the evening of May 7, 2011. The Blaine County Sheriff's Office earlier reported that the fire followed an argument between Busby and his wife, who had left the home before the fire was started.

The fire, ignited in two locations, gutted portions of the home interior. The Ketchum Fire Department estimated damage at $400,000.

Busby's wife, Tracy L. Busby, filed for divorce in June in Blaine County Magistrate Court. The divorce case is still pending with a court trial scheduled for March 15 before Judge R. Ted Israel.

At Monday's hearing, Roark and Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Matt Fredback offered differing arguments as to why Patrick Busby torched his own home.

"What he wanted to do was hurt the family, he wanted to hurt the wife, he wanted to hurt the daughter," Fredback said. "He was drunk, no doubt about it, but he wasn't drunk enough that he didn't know what he was doing. More than intoxication, I think what was going on here was rage.

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Roark said his client started the fire to destroy himself, not his family.

"We have to keep in mind that this is a house that Mr. Busby built himself for himself and his family," Roark said. "He was trying to destroy his own life—Mr. Busby did not intend to come out of the house once the fire was started."

Roark noted that at the time, Patrick Busby's drinking was "out of control" and that he was suffering from severe depression.

"Mr. Busby understands that he cannot change what happened," Roark said. "Believe me, in many discussions with Mr. Busby, he has many times wished he could change what happened."

Roark noted that letters sent to the court from both Busby's wife and daughter requested that a jail sentence not be imposed. He argued further that a jail sentence would have "no practical effect whatsoever" for "somebody who has already been punished before he came in the courtroom."

Patrick Busby briefly addressed the court before sentence was pronounced.

"I'm truly sorry. I do wish I could change this," he said.

Judge Elgee reminded the Busby that the prison sentence can be imposed if Busby fails at probation.

"As long as you don't drink and go back to where you were, society is safe," the judge said. "I don't want you going back to where you were."

Terry Smith: tsmith@mtexpress.com




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