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Probation is 'zero tolerance'

DALLAS -- A Dallas man accused of breaking into and setting fires in a vacant warehouse in Dallas has been sentenced to 18 months of probation for the crimes.

December 05, 2012

DALLAS -- A Dallas man accused of breaking into and setting fires in a vacant warehouse in Dallas has been sentenced to 18 months of probation for the crimes.

Benjamin Reed, 18, pleaded guilty to three counts of second-degree burglary and one charge of reckless burning Nov. 27 as part of a plea negotiation with the Polk County District Attorney's Office. Two remaining counts of reckless burning and one count of manufacture of a destructive device were dropped as part of the agreement with prosecutors.

Benjamin Reed

Benjamin Reed

Polk County District Attorney Stan Butterfield stated in court Nov. 27 that a number of young people were involved in breaking into the warehouse and "essentially were playing with matches, although to an extreme degree."

The warehouse in question, located at 1378 SE Jefferson St., was destroyed by fire on Oct. 13, but prosecutors weren't able to connect the fire to Reed.

"My investigation indicated he didn't have anything to do with the fire that burned the building," said Martin Habekost, Reed's attorney.

Deputy District Attorney Matthew Jarvis, who was in charge of the case, said the investigation continues into the source of the Oct. 13 fire.

"We are waiting for the (Oregon) State Fire Marshal's report (on the fire)," Jarvis said. "That will hopefully shed a little light on what happened."

Jarvis added if the fire was arson, there could be many suspects.

While no evidence exists to implicate Reed in the blaze at this time, he did admit to several criminal acts when Dallas Police questioned him the morning of the fire.

According to court documents, police spotted Reed with Dallas Hudnall, a Dallas resident, and another boy in the area at the time of the fire.

When officers interviewed him, Reed admitted to breaking into the warehouse, mixing flammable chemicals, including napalm, and setting fires. He also said he made a Molotov cocktail.

Reed said he had been setting fires in the warehouse for about six weeks in September and October, according to court records.

Reed and Hudnall were arrested on arson charges after speaking to officers, but charges against Hudnall were later dismissed.

Arson charges were dropped against Reed and a grand jury indictment was issued on Oct. 24, accusing him of burglary, reckless burning and unlawful manufacture of a destructive device. Butterfield said the charges stem from what Reed admitted when he was questioned by police.

Polk County Circuit Court Judge William Horner sentenced Reed to the agreed upon probation and ordered him to be evaluated for a fire starter treatment program.

When asked in court Nov. 27 if he had anything he would like to say about his actions, Reed said: "I did some stupid things."

Jarvis said the sentence is a "zero tolerance" probation, meaning if Reed doesn't comply with the stipulations of his probation, he will face prison time. He could serve at least a year-and-a-half and up to five-and-a-half years if he violates his probation.

"Be very careful, Mr. Reed, especially with who you associate with," Horner said at the sentencing. "And stay away from matches."