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Fargo man gets 90 days in arson case

Stephen Carl Schmit Jr.

FARGO - A 60-year-old Fargo man received a 90-day jail sentence Monday after pleading guilty to setting his mobile home on fire to "put it out of its misery."

Stephen Carl Schmit Jr. pleaded guilty to an amended felony charge of endangering by fire or explosion in Cass County District Court.

He was originally charged with arson, which carried up to 10 years in prison, but did not have insurance on the home and the charge was reduced.

Court documents state:

Authorities were called to 10 W. Lynmar Drive N., just east of Broadway and north of 32nd Avenue, about 6:30 a.m. July 21, 2008.

Schmit told police he lit a candle in a pile of papers because he was sick of the place and late in his payments.

"OK, I'm sick of the home, so I decided to take care of it, put it out of its misery," he told police.

Defense attorney Brian Nelson said his client does not know why he set the fire, saying Schmit made a "colossal mistake" and was "out of character when this happened."

Nelson said he believes there might be a medical explanation for the incident, saying his client has worked hard since leaving prison following a 1982 manslaughter conviction.

Nelson argued against the 270-day sentence a prosecutor sought, saying 30 days would send a message.

East Central Judicial District Judge Georgia Dawson sentenced Schmit to two years, first to serve 90 days, with the balance suspended for two years of supervised probation.

Dawson also ordered $500 in fees and authorized more than $4,000 in restitution.