Press-Republican

Friday

March 15, 2013

Port Henry arsonist pleads guilty

ELIZABETHTOWN — A Port Henry man admitted in court Thursday that he tried to burn down part of Port Henry’s business district, then almost ran over firefighters as he fled the village.

Joseph P. King, 44, was in Essex County Court to plead guilty to felony third-degree arson and several misdemeanor charges as part of a plea agreement.

The misdemeanors are fourth-degree criminal mischief, obstructing firefighting operations, aggravated driving while intoxicated and two counts of second-degree reckless endangerment.

HIGH ALCOHOL CONTENT

State Police said King had a 0.19 blood alcohol content — more than twice the legal limit of 0.08 — when he was apprehended.

King was brought into court wearing a striped prison uniform, with handcuffs and leg shackles. He was represented by attorney Julie Garcia of Westport, with Assistant District Attorney Michael Langey there for the prosecution.

NEAR MAX SENTENCE

Judge Richard Meyer said he’ll accept the plea agreement and sentence King to four to 14 years in state prison on May 16.

“This (sentence) represents as close to the maximum as possible without being the maximum,” the judge said.

The maximum sentence would have been five to 15 years in state prison. Meyer requested a pre-sentence report on King from the County Probation Department.

At around midnight on Jan. 2, 2012, King set several fires around the village of Port Henry, including one that did more than $500,000 damage to Mountain Lake Services’ downtown office building and an adjoining structure.

“You damaged the building by starting a fire and causing an explosion,” Meyer told King.

King had been fired from his job as a residential-care aide by Mountain Lake Services in 2008.

‘BAD CHOICE’

Garcia said King has recently written letters to firefighters and Mountain Lake Services apologizing for what he did.

“The bad choice he made on that day was he drank,” she said. “He’s taken responsibility for the actions he’s pleaded guilty to. He’s truly remorseful.

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