For the second time in five years, arsonist Martin Pang has lost his bid to get out of paying restitution and extradition costs associated with the warehouse fire he set in 1995 that killed four Seattle firefighters. With interest, Pang is on the hook for nearly $3 million.
Martin Pang, the arsonist who set the deadliest blaze in the Seattle Fire Department’s history, will have to pay nearly $3 million in restitution and other legal costs when he’s released from prison, according to an opinion published Tuesday by the state Court of Appeals.
Pang, who is serving a 35-year prison sentence for setting a massive warehouse fire in January 1995 that killed four firefighters in the Chinatown International District, filed a motion in King County Superior Court in August 2015 seeking relief from his legal financial obligations, known as LFOs.
In his motion, Pang argued the judge who sentenced him in March 1998 never inquired about his ability to pay restitution to victims’ families or the costs associated with extraditing him back to the U.S. from Brazil, where he had fled after setting the blaze.
Initially filed in King County Superior Court, Pang’s motion was kicked up to the Court of Appeals because it was filed long after the one-year deadline for challenging a criminal sentence and judgment.
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In his motion, Pang contended that another case decided by the state Supreme Court in March 2015, requiring sentencing judges to perform an “individualized inquiry” into a defendant’s ability to pay LFOs, constituted a significant change in law and so should be applied retroactively. He also sought to have his LFOs waived by the court.
In its brief to the Court of Appeals, the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office noted that Pang had previously tried to get out of paying his LFOs in 2012 but the trial court rejected his arguments in a ruling that was then upheld by the Court of Appeals.
In Pang’s most recent case, Senior Deputy Prosecutor James Whisman argued that Pang never appealed his LFOs at the time they were imposed and his petition was filed long after the one-year deadline outlined in the Revised Code of Washington.
Untimely appeals may be considered but only if there has been a significant change in the law and a court determines there are sufficient reasons to apply the changes retroactively — but the Supreme Court case cited by Pang doesn’t rise to that level, Whisman argued.
The Court of Appeals agreed with Whisman and ruled that Pang’s motion was untimely, according to Tuesday’s opinion. The court also declined to construe Pang’s motion as a motion to remit costs.
According to briefs filed in the case, Pang was ordered to pay $956,000 in restitution to nine individuals, one business, two insurance companies, the Crime Victims Compensation Fund and the city of Seattle. Additionally, he was ordered to pay more than $28,000 for his extradition, $257.10 in court costs and a $100 victim penalty assessment.
He began making payments while in prison, but as of June, had only paid $3,660, the briefs show. Due to accruing interest, Pang owed nearly $2.9 million, also as of June.
On Jan. 5,1995, Pang torched a Chinatown International District building owned by his wealthy parents, killing Lt. Walter Kilgore, Lt. Gregory Shoemaker and firefighters Randall Terlicker and James Brown in what remains the Seattle Fire Department’s deadliest fire.
The blaze was set, according to prosecutors, so Pang could collect insurance money on the warehouse.
Pang pleaded guilty to four counts of manslaughter in early 1998.
Seattle police said in 2013 that while in prison, Pang engineered an elaborate identity-fraud scheme with an alleged accomplice on the outside that focused on stealing the identities of firefighters, police officers and witnesses who played a role in his criminal case.
Pang, who apparently believed the scheme would net $20 million, was setting himself up for a life of luxury in Brazil following his release from prison, Seattle police said at the time.
KING 5 later reported that Pang was docked 76 days of good time as a result of that investigation.
Pang — who is currently housed at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla — could be released as early as Nov. 21, 2018, according to a spokeswoman for the state Department of Corrections.
Information in this article, originally published Jan. 17, 2017, was corrected Jan. 18, 2017. A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Martin Pang was sentenced to 20 years in prison.