Galien man gets prison time for trying to burn down father’s trailer

Published 4:18 pm Monday, July 8, 2024

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NILES — A Galien man who tried to burn down a trailer his father lived in was sentenced to prison Monday in Berrien County Trial Court.

James Ernest Foust, 37, of Galien, pleaded guilty to second degree arson and was sentenced to nine years to 20 years in prison and $198 in fines and costs. He has credit for 80 days already served.

The incident occurred April 19 in Galien Township when he tried to burn down a trailer where his father lived.

Berrien County Assistant Prosecutor Kate Arnold said she agreed with the prison recommendation given Foust’s prior criminal record and his substance abuse.

“Here, his substance abuse issues affected others including his family, neighbors and firefighters,” she said.

Defense attorney Carrie Briseno called it a “very heartbreaking case”. She noted that Foust pleaded right before a preliminary hearing in the case because he didn’t want to force his father to testify against him. She said her client was high on methamphetamines at the time of the incident.

Foust said that he knows his record speaks for itself but noted that he had completed parole and probation terms in the past.

“I’ve taken one blow after another,” he said. “With some moderate monitoring, I can change.”

Berrien County Trial Court Judge Jennifer Smith said that it was concerning to her that Foust burned his father’s trailer after an argument.

“You have an extensive record going back to age 15,” she said. “You also had a fire/arson charge as a juvenile and that’s troubling.”

“The fact that you would even think about setting your father’s trailer on fire is very disconcerting,” she added. “Whether you were made or wanted to scare him, it took several thousand dollars to repair his home. Being high on meth is no excuse.”

“My concern is that you will do it again,” she said. “You could have gotten substance abuse treatment in the past. I agree that you completed parole and probation in the past, but here you are again. Arson is one of the more serious crimes, I don’t see any reason to go below the guidelines.”