Alleged arsonist not seeking representation

A 54-year-old man who allegedly burned down his former boss’s cabin was arraigned last week at the Kenai Courthouse. 

 

Public defender William Taylor entered a not guilty plea on Willard J. Hutson Jr.’s behalf. He said Hutson had his own ideas about seeking representation, however. 

According to an Aug. 10 affidavit, the defendant may represent himself in court. 

On July 23, Hutson was arrested and charged with first-degree arson after allegedly admitting to an on-scene trooper that he set fire to the Soldotna home. He also was arrested on an outstanding warrant. 

Upon arriving at the fire at 44684 Sunrise Ave., Trooper Eugene Hunter was speaking with fire officials when he noticed a man near the fire motioning him to come over. The man, who was later identified verbally and by an Oregon ID card as Hutson, informed the trooper — without being prompted — he set the fire, according to troopers.

The cabin was unoccupied during the fire. 

Hutson appeared in court wearing Wildwood Correctional Center’s yellow scrubs, his grey hair disheveled. He put on glasses to briefly read his charges. 

The alleged victim, Brian Chapman, did not attend the arraignment.

Hutson told trooper Hunter he set the fire as payback for being cheated out of wages during the last two years and for Chapman firing him two days prior, according to troopers.

Assistant District Attorney Ben Jaffa said the defendant had some prior criminal history in Alaska, but none were felony convictions. Huston also had numerous out-of-state convictions encompassing a broad range of dates, and those included felonies. 

Assuming the defendant has no pertinent criminal history, he faces a minimum five-year jail sentence, said Superior Court Judge Carl Bauman. The maximum sentence Hutson faces when considering multiple priors is 15 to 20 years, with fines of up to $250,000.

So, a representation hearing was appropriate, Bauman said. 

“Before going against (the attorney’s) advice, there needs to be a detailed inquiry into the thinking of, more particularly your thinking Mr. Hutson, about not taking that advice,” Bauman said. 

Public Defender Hatton Greer said Friday at the representation hearing that their office believed Hutson wanted to represent himself, according to the affidavit. The court filed the rest of the hearing as confidential. 

A trial is set for Oct. 1 at the Kenai Courthouse.  

Jerzy Shedlock can be reached at jerzy.shedlock@peninsulaclarion.com. 

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