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Meas. 11 charges questioned in Woodburn fire

Three teens, age 15, accused of adult arson and a minimum sentence of over seven years has prompted one defense attorney to question Oregon's Measure 11 mandatory sentencing laws.
woodburn high fire 4

WOODBURN -- Three 15-year-olds implicated in a four-alarm fire at Woodburn High will be tried as adults, accused of the arson that heavily damaged the school.

More: Woodburn High damaged in 4-alarm fire

The legal move prompted one defense attorney, not connected to the case, to raise the question of reforming Measure 11, which sets mandatory minimum sentencing for certain crimes.

It's pretty messed up what they did, said attorney Ken McNeil.

The three all described their active roles in the fire, according to a probable cause affidavit.

More: Teens suspects charged as adults

Diego Rodriguez-Alvarez, Miguel Garcia and Jose Campuzano-Zepeda were all accused of arson, a crime that carries a minimum sentence of seven and a half years.

As a defense lawyer that just makes me nervous, McNeil said. Were these kids acting with criminal intent and criminal behavior, or were they just really being stupid? Because if they were really being stupid, I would like to think the state would not charge them with Measure 11.

The fire started after the teens poured hand sanitizer on a desk and used a lighter to ignite it, according to court documents obtained by KGW. They used paper towels to try to put out the flames, but that only caused the fire to grow.

Investigators:Teens lit hand sanitizer, fire spread fast

McNeil also questioned the wisdom of sending teens into a prison system that lets them go at about age 22, saddled with a felony record. There is still a chance to the teens to face lesser charges if there is a plea deal, he pointed out.

Family members of the teens declined interview requests.

Their next court appearance was scheduled for May 29.

While the teens in Marion County face adult charges, two 13-year-olds in Washington County charged with an arson fire that destroyed a church will not face trial.

More: Trial averted for teens in Tualatin church fire

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