WOODLAND, CA - A former volunteer firefighter in Yolo's Capay Valley whom prosecutors called "reckless and dangerous" received almost the maximum possible sentence for a series of wildland arsons.
Robert Eric Eason, who was convicted of setting 12 fires in 2006, was sentenced in a Friday hearing where the judge called it "the most serious arson case we've had in Yolo County in decades."
Despite Eason's adamant denials, Yolo County Superior Court Judge Stephen Mock said, "I have absolutely no doubt that Robert Eric Eason is the one who set the fires. Absolutely none."
Outside court, however, the defendant's father proclaimed his son's innocence and blamed an inadequate defense for his son's conviction.
He said the unique time-delay devices of mosquito coils with matches attached that investigators linked to Eason were actually relatively common.
Robert Eason, Sr., himself a retired firefighter, said his son will "absolutely" appeal the conviction.
The defendant was a respected volunteer firefighter and skilled EMT with the Capay Valley Fire Protection District. The 39-year-old father of three worked as a rancher and also as a security guard for the Cache Creek Casino.
Eason came under suspicion during a three-year investigation of a series of grass fires, and at one point investigators attached a GPS device on his car. He was tracked at least once driving by an area where a fire started a short time later, according to investigators.
Besides the 12 counts of arson, Eason was also convicted on two counts of possessing incendiary devices. Investigators found two mosquito coils when they searched the defendant's home.
Under current state sentencing laws, Eason must serve at least 85 percent of the 40-year sentence.