Motel Owner Sentenced for Arson

Motel Owner Sentenced for Arson

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HEBER CITY, Utah (AP) -- Mazhar Tabesh, continuing to maintain he is the victim of a hate crime, has been sentenced to one year in jail for aggravated arson in a fire at his Heber City motel.

Fourth District Judge Donald Eyre said Wednesday that he was imposing a light sentence because Tabesh, 40, a U.S. citizen born in Pakistan, had no criminal history, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.

Defense attorney Ron Yengich said the jury's verdict will be appealed, the Deseret Morning News said.

Tabesh also was ordered to pay restitution of $135,444 to the insurance and mortgage companies that lost money from the Alpine Lodge fire and $1,850 in fines.

Yengich said he had not had much time to review the restitution recommendation and told the judge he may call later for a restitution hearing. After the hearing, he told reporters he probably will fight the amount.

Eyre said that after 90 days in the Wasatch County Jail, Tabesh could serve the remainder of his sentence on work release.

Wasatch County Attorney Thomas said, "This whole community has been victimized by this case."

He cited a fund-raising benefit residents held for Tabesh.

Low played a videotape of a July 22, 2002, TV news broadcast in which Tabesh claimed the fire was retribution for terrorist attacks.

"The worst thing about this case is that he invoked 9-11 to cover his tracks," Low said.

Tabesh maintained that on July 21, 2002, an unidentified guest rented Room 112, where the fire broke out.

Investigators found a food wrapper with Tabesh's fingerprints in the room where gasoline and paint thinner were used to start the fire.

Prosecutors contended the motel was pulling Tabesh into debt and he had been unable to sell it.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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