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Two-Rivers arson suspect pleads guilty to torching homes, business on CHSR

Gallion plea hearing.jpg
Dan Bross
/
KUAC
A full gallery at Rabinowitz Courthouse in Fairbanks hears Jamison Gallion, who pled guilty to arson on June 27, 2022.

18-year-old Jamison Gallion reversed two non-guilty pleas last month, and 17 others at a hearing yesterday. Monday's proceeding finalized an agreement with the state under which Gallion pled guilty to felony crimes of arson, burglary, criminal mischief, and terroristic threatening related to fires that destroyed or heavily damaged seven structures, including a Two Rivers home and the Two Rivers lodge, which were occupied at the time.

Pointing to admissions of guilt made by Gallion to law enforcement during their investigation, Gallion's attorney Ken Covel, says his client wants to move the case forward.

"Mr. Gallian has made certain admissions in this case. And, um, we're looking forward to doing sentencing in the matter and getting it resolve," Covel said.

The courtroom was full during the hearing; a gallery that included arson victims. Both Covel and assistant district attorney, Anna Ralph emphasized the importance of bringing the case to a close.

"Now we have all these good people down here today. We're prepared to go ahead. Mr. Gallion wants closure on this., They want closure on this," he said.

"The state has very real concerns about finality for the victims. This is a case that has severely impacted the community of Two Rivers," Ralph said.

Ralph's comment was in support of a part of the plea agreement under which Gallion would've forfeited the right to withdraw his guilty pleas or seek post-conviction relief, in light of a recently disclosed electronic record of law enforcement investigator's communications about the case that the defense has yet to see. Judge Paul Lyle denied that part of the agreement, and asked Gallion whether he understood that going forward prior to knowing what's in the communications might still have an adverse effect on any future plea changes or post-conviction relief petitions.

"The fact that you're going forward today, not knowing what's in this information might impact your ability to prevail in that motion to succeed on that motion. You understand that?"

"Yes," Gallion said.

Gallion participated in the hearing over the phone because of a COVID19 lockdown at the jail. Judge Lyle reviewed a range of jail times and fines Gallion faces for the various crimes and went through a 19-count indictment asking for Gallion's plea on each charge.

"To CTN 004, which charges you with Arson in the Second Degree at the Pleasant Valley Community Center on June 19th, 2021. How do you plead guilty or not guilty?"

"Guilty," Gallion said.

Under the plea agreement, the state is dropping four charges, two Arson and two for Terroristic Threatening, related to letters Gallion sent to fire victims.

Two Rivers resident, Ginger McKee, whose home was burned, objected to the state dropping an Arson charge for the destruction of a rental unit on her property.

"If Jamison Gallion had not struck the match that burned down our shop and our home and the home of our other tenant, the, uh, other rental would never have burned — whether his intentions were not to burn it down — that that is completely irrelevant," she said.

McKee says she's also concerned that the plea agreement will result in a shorter sentence for Gallion. Speaking outside the courtroom, after the hearing Jamison Gallion's parents, William and Amanda Gallion said they were unaware of any signs that their then 17-year-old son was involved in the arson attacks.

And they pointed to their subsequent struggle to get him mental healthcare in jail.

"Been working for 10 months to try to find some mental healthcare for him. But it's, it's impossible in the state. It's impossible. We've been denied by multiple agencies. So it's yeah. Not being able to find out where he was at mentally and everything, um, has been very hard for us," they said.

Jamison Gallion sentencing is scheduled for November 2nd through the 4th.