69-year-old Lola Atkinson, a 2012 recipient of a YWCA Woman of Achievement Award and the first vice president of the Metropolitan Kalamazoo Branch of the NAACP, recently pleaded guilty to conspiring with her handyman to set a rental home she owned on fire, according to a news article at Mlive.com.
On Wednesday, August 6, Atkinson pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to commit second-degree arson. Because of her guilty plea, prosecutors have agreed to dismiss a second count when she is sentenced in late September.
Atkinson and Elvis Patterson, Atkinson’s 57-year-old handyman, were arrested in February for allegedly plotting to burn down a rental home Atkinson owned at 1327 N. Park St. Patterson pleaded guilty to the charges in June.
Bill Moorian, a Kalamazoo Public Safety detective, testified in court that he and another detective conducted surveillance in February when Atkinson, Patterson, and the tenant who lived in the rental home had a meeting in which the three allegedly discussed their plans to burn down the house. Moorian told District Judge Richard A. Santoni that Atkinson gave money to the tenant to vacate the home so that she and Patterson could go ahead with the arson plan.
Under Michigan Penal code 750.73, second degree arson is a felony offense punishable by up to 20 years in prison along with fines of up to $20,000 or three times the value of the property, whichever is greater. However, because Atkinson pleaded guilty, it is likely the punishment she receives will be less severe.
Arson is a very serious crime which will leave the defendant facing substantial prison time and fines if found guilty. As with most other crimes, entering a guilty plea often results in reduced penalties, so it will be interesting to learn what happens when Atkinson is sentenced. Patterson has a Cobbs agreement with the court which calls for the judge to sentence him to a period of time that does not exceed three years in order for him to be eligible for a probation bootcamp program.
If you have been accused of arson, contact an aggressive Michigan criminal defense attorney at once. It is vital that you take immediate action to protect your legal rights and freedom.