A man who set 10 fires in Greenwood and one fire in Shoreline last year was given an exceptional sentence of 30 years in prison in King County Superior Court on Friday morning.
A man who last year set 10 fires in Greenwood and one fire in Shoreline was given an exceptional sentence of 30 years in prison in King County Superior Court on Friday morning.
Kevin Swalwell apologized for setting the fires and blamed his actions on his mental illness. His lawyer said Swalwell hears voices that tell him to set fires.
Swalwell has been convicted of arson six times in the past, and he was under community supervision by the state Department of Corrections when the series of fires were set last summer and fall, mainly in Seattle’s Greenwood neighborhood.
Defense attorney Spencer Hamlin said it was Swalwell’s decision to plead guilty April 30 and agree to a 30-year sentence. Swalwell pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree arson and eight counts of second-degree arson.
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Had Swalwell not pleaded guilty to the charges, prosecutors would have sought a 36-year prison sentence at trial, Hamlin said.
King County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Erin Becker said Swalwell was behind “an attack on an entire community.” None of the business owners or other victims attended Swalwell’s sentencing.
“I do apologize to all of the victims I caused pain and trouble to,” Swalwell said in court Friday. “As long as I’m on my medication, I’m OK.”
During the hearing, Hamlin said Swalwell’s mental illness is under control with the help of medications. He said Swalwell wasn’t on medications during the arson spree.
“He hears voices, and they go away when he lights things on fire,” Hamlin said.
Business owners spent sleepless nights standing vigil in their shops last year, and Seattle Fire Department launched nighttime patrols.
The most destructive fire was set Oct. 23 in the Eleanor Roosevelt building, where four businesses — Green Bean Coffee House, Szechuan Bistro, C.C. Teriyaki and Pho Tic Tac — were destroyed. The adjacent Taproot Theatre playhouse was heavily damaged by smoke and water.
All told, the fires caused $3 million in damage and severely burned a 68-year-old man.
Swalwell was arrested Nov. 13 near a burning vacant warehouse in Shoreline.
Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or firstname.lastname@example.org