On May 21, Hood River Circuit Judge John Olson sentenced the 15-year-old boy who started a wildfire in the Columbia River Gorge last September to pay more than $36 million in restitution to victims who lost money and property.
That is, of course, an absurd amount of money. Especially for a teenager. The internet was ablaze with opinions this week about whether such a sentence was fair or vindictive. Y'all have fun with that.
But the decision also raises practical questions about how the kid is going to pay. Here we can help.
How much will he pay?
No. He's going to pay a set amount established by the Hood River County Juvenile Department that will be based on how much money he has, his other responsibilities, and his behavior. This will continue for 10 years, at which point the boy can petition to either reduce or forgive the remaining debt. By then, he'll be 25 years old.
So basically, he's going to pay a percentage of his income each month for the next 10 years?
Yep. The county is still working out the details of the payment plan. If he doesn't pay, the county could ask the court to order his wages garnished.
Who gets the money?
The court will dole out the money to each of the nine victims identified in Monday's sentencing memorandum. The money will be distributed in proportion to how much money each victim is owed. The U.S. Forest Service, which is owed the most money, will receive about 58 percent of each payment made. The other victims include Allstate Insurance, Oregon State Parks, Trails Club of Oregon, the Union Pacific Railroad, the Oregon State Fire Marshal, the Oregon Department of Transportation, Heuker Properties, and one woman who lost her home in the fire. Her name is Iris Schenk.
Are his parents on the hook for any of this money?
No. But they could still end up paying money in a civil judgment.
Wait, could victims still sue the boy in civil court?
They sure could. Oregon law explicitly protects a victim's right to file a civil case even if a juvenile case results in restitution payments. However, the court will credit any restitution paid by the boy toward any judgment made in a civil case, so he can't be billed twice for the same damages.