Sentencing for arsonist pushed back to January


— A 19-year-old Ohio man, convicted of setting a townhouse on fire, will face sentencing in January rather than today as he was originally scheduled.
Matthew John Hoffman was supposed to appear today in Routt County District Judge Joel S. Thompson's courtroom. He was to be sentenced for guilty pleas to four felonies and a misdemeanor.
The sentencing hearing has been postponed until 9 a.m. Jan. 5 because a presentence investigation ordered by Thompson is not complete, said Norm Townsend, Hoffman's attorney.
The county's probation department was unable to finish the report in time for today's court hearing, he said.
The report will examine Hoffman's background and give Thompson a sentencing recommendation.
Hoffman pleaded guilty to first-degree arson, second-degree burglary and first-degree aggravated motor vehicle theft on Nov. 3. The charges are all class three felonies and each carries a prison term of between two and 24 years, a fine and five years of parole.
Hoffman also entered guilty pleas to theft, a class four felony, and reckless endangering safety, a class three misdemeanor.
The theft charge carries a prison term of between one and 12 years, a fine and three years of parole. For the misdemeanor, Hoffman could be sentenced to the Routt County Jail for six months and be fined as much as $750.
Hoffman pleaded guilty to the charges for setting a fire in the early morning hours of Aug. 28 at The Ridge. Hoffman set the fire to cover up a burglary.
The fire destroyed two townhouses and damaged eight others. The blaze also caused authorities to evacuate 16 people staying at the condominium complex.
Hoffman has to pay restitution for the damage the fire caused.
Hoffman pleaded guilty to the charges after Townsend and Deputy District Attorney Charles Feldmann worked out a plea agreement.
In return for the guilty pleas, a felony theft charge was dropped by Feldmann. The charge stemmed from two signs that Hoffman stole in July.
Hoffman set fire to a townhouse in the eight-unit building after he committed a burglary the day before. During the burglary, he stole a Chevrolet Suburban belonging to the unit's owner. He put stolen goods in the vehicle and drove it to a parking lot at the Clocktower. The vehicle was recovered by police the day of the fire.
Hoffman was arrested by the Steamboat Springs Police Department Sept. 26.
He was arrested after he agreed to travel back to Steamboat Springs from Ohio to discuss the theft of two signs, worth $5,000 each, that had been placed on the outskirts of town to welcome visitors.
The signs were recovered Sept. 7. at Hoffman's former apartment at the D Bark K Motel, 35495 U.S. 40.
As he was being interviewed by police, Hoffman confessed he stole the signs and committed the arson.
Authorities suspected he might be linked to the arson because he had access to the town home through his prior place of employment.


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