Coatesville arsons prompt measure to increase penalty

    Currently in Pennsylvania, arson is arson. Whether it’s a garage or, say, 15 houses, the charge is the same. State lawmakers and the Chester County District Attorney are trying to change that with a proposal that would increase the punishment for arson.


    Prompted by the nearly 60 arsons that caused $5 million in damage to Coatesville between 2007 and 2009, the bill calls for changes to the arson statute.

    As the Phoenix reports, the proposal requires mandatory sentences in arsons that result in bodily harm, and also creates a new class of arson. Aggravated arsonists who start fires could face a five- to 12-year minimum sentence. Fires set to occupied homes or those set with the intent of injury qualify as aggravated arson. Arsonists with multiple charges, like in Coatesville, will serve consecutive sentences.

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    Pa. Sen. John Rafferty and Senate majority leader Dominic Pileggi sponsored the bill with support from Sen. Andrew Dinniman and Pa. Rep. Tim Hennessey.

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