Convicted arsonist sentenced to 250 years to life plus 110 years

Crime Watch
Flames Graphic

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — A man who terrorized the Oildale area by intentionally setting multiple fires during a 36-hour period was sentenced Tuesday to spend the rest of his life behind bars.

A Superior Court judge sentenced Damon Franklin, 43, to a prison term of 250 years to life plus 110 years for the spate of fires that damaged multiple structures, including a church and an inhabited apartment building.

In imposing sentence, Judge John W. Lua noted the inherent danger in setting fires and the potential destruction that can result.

“It was fortunate no one was injured,” he said.

Lua also took into account Franklin’s criminal record, including two prior strike offenses. From 1991 to 2017, Franklin accumulated three felony and 11 misdemeanor convictions, 14 incidents of failing to appear for court and six probation violations.

He was on post-release supervision at the time he ignited the blazes.

In July, a jury convicted Franklin on 12 counts of arson.

The judge denied a motion brought by Franklin’s public defender Ernest Hinman to strike the prior felony convictions alleged against his client under the “three strikes” law. Hinman argued those crimes should not be taken into account at sentencing due to the age of Franklin at the time of his strike offenses and his history of mental illness.

Franklin requested to be removed from court before sentencing. Lua allowed him to sit in a jury room and use a headset to listen to the proceedings.

Prosecutor Joseph Cho said afterward Franklin received an appropriate prison term considering the seriousness of his actions and the lives he placed in danger.

In September 2017, Franklin lit fires at eight separate locations. Seven structures and five items of personal property burned.

Witnesses saw Franklin gathering brush and vegetation on the properties. Prosecutors said one witness reported seeing a man later identified as Franklin walking away from an area Sept. 27 where three fires were set in an alley behind a row of apartment complexes on North Chester Avenue.

Franklin had removed his outer clothing before deputies arrived at his location and arrested him.

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