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Church arsonist resentenced

Published July 23. 2010 05:00PM

A Penn Forest Township man, who admitted setting fire to a township church that completely destroyed it, was resentenced Thursday in Carbon County court.

Andrew Wargo Griffith, 31, of Wargo Drive, was originally sentenced on June 1 to serve 19 to 48 months in the county prison followed by five years of state probation. After the sentencing defense Atty. John J. Waldron, of Allentown, filed a petition for reconsideration of sentence.

Senior Judge Richard W. Webb vacated the first sentence and conducted a new sentencing hearing yesterday. Webb then resentenced Griffith to serve 18 to 36 months in prison, meaning one year less on his maximum and one month less on his minimum, followed by five years of state probation. The sentence keeps Griffith under the supervsion of the state parole board.

Waldron argued that Griffith's first sentence was less than his co-conspirator, John Joseph Petrovich. Petrovich, 35, of 135 Lentz Trail, Jim Thorpe, was sentenced to serve nine to 23 months in the county prison for his part in setting the church on fire.

The main part of Waldron's argument was that Petrovich's sentence was a county term meaning he was under the supervision of the county probation office while Griffith's sentence is a state sentence despite that fact it is served in the county prison. Petrovich has already served his prison term and is currently on parole/probation.

Waldron said because it is a state sentence the state parole board will decide on Griffith's release date. He said it is well known that the state is much slower in releasing prisoners when their minimum term is completed.

Assistant District Attorney Michael S. Greek argued that Griffith was more culpable in the case. He said Petrovich cooperated from the start and was willing to testify against Griffith, if necessary, while Griffith did not cooperate at all. He said Griffith did not show any remorse for what he did and how the fire affected the longtime members of Christ Lutheran Church, which was destroyed in the fire.

Webb said there is a difference in the pleas. He said Petrovich pleaded to a felony two and Griffith to a felony one among other facts including Petrovich's cooperation. He also said he realizes the state sentence means that Griffith will probably not be released when his minimum is up.

Griffith had pleaded to one count each of arson, burglary, institutional destruction of venerable objects and criminal trespass. The plea was not only for the fire at the Christ Lutheran Church, which occurred on Nov. 4, 2006, but also for entry into the Lighthouse Baptist Church on Green St., in Franklin Township, on Oct. 19, 2006, and removing a check which he later placed in his own checking account.

In addition to the jail term Webb ordered Griffith to make total restititution for damages of over $390,000. Damages to the church was over $700,00 but the congregation had insurance on the property. He was also orderd to have no contact with Petrovich or the victims, get both drug and alcohol and mental health evaluations and follow any recommendations for treatment, supply a DNA sample and zero tolerance on drug or alcohol use.

He was given credit for 389 days spent in prison to date on the charges and was returned to the county prison.

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