Judge rejects plea

Charges don’t reflect nature of arsonist’s crimes, Chavez says

KINGMAN - Mohave County Judge James Chavez rejected the guilty plea bargain on Friday for a Golden Valley man facing 11 felony counts, including six for arson.

Chavez said he rejected the deal for John William Wright, 18, because he felt the charges Wright was pleading to didn't fully reflect the nature of the offenses.

Wright had entered into the guilty plea agreement with the Mohave County Attorney's Office for unauthorized burning of wildlands and criminal damage. He was facing six counts of arson of a structure, three counts of third-degree burglary, one count of unauthorized burning of wildlands and one count of criminal damage.

In the agreement, the charges would have been reduced to undesignated offenses and Chavez would have determined if they would be considered felonies or misdemeanors.

Carlene Lacy, the defense attorney for Wright, submitted a new guilty plea bargain to Chavez and requested a new judgment and sentencing hearing be scheduled for two weeks off. Wright slowly and quietly pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted arson of a structure before the judge.

In the new guilty plea bargain, Wright will face at least two years in prison. Also part of the stipulated guilty plea agreement, Wright would have to pay restitution on all counts up to $15,500 and would have to reimburse fire services.

Chavez set the hearing for 9:30 a.m. on April 6. One of the victims, Stephanie Boop, addressed the court regarding the old and new guilty plea agreements.

"I felt this plea is better than the other one," Boop said. "I felt there was no type of justice. I just want justice for my family and my neighbors."

The Mohave County Sheriff's deputies arrested Wright on Nov. 13, and he pleaded not guilty at his arraignment. Wright, who was 17 years old at the time of the incidents, is being prosecuted as an adult by the County Attorney's Office.

Around 10:44 p.m. on Nov. 13, an engine and four personnel from the Golden Valley Fire Department responded to the subdivision, where several fires had been set. There were six car fires, a back porch swing fire and two small brush fires within a 30-minute span according to the GVFD.

There were no injuries, but four of the vehicles sustained interior damage and two had exterior damage from the fires

About four minutes later, deputies responded to an arson call in the 3100 block of Kevin Drive according to MCSO documents. The deputy contacted Michael Boop, a homeowner who had extinguished fires in three vehicles on his property.

While a deputy was talking with Michael, he noticed Wright observing the damage and told him to leave the scene. Deputies soon determined footprints at the scenes matched the shoes Wright was wearing.

They went to the Wright residence, which is in the same block as Boop, and questioned him after his mother gave them permission. Wright told deputies he had noticed the fires and tried to put them out himself.

After a search, deputies allegedly found a lighter and two CDs Boop claimed were in one of the damaged vehicles.