Janesville41.6°

Man ordered to repay for fire

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Mike DuPre'
April 25, 2008
— A member of Janesville’s Odd Fellows Lodge and the owner of a neighboring tavern are satisfied with the restitution ordered Thursday for fire damages, but they think the man who pleaded guilty in the case should spend some time in prison.

Jeremy A. Brown, 25, Homewood, Ala., pleaded guilty earlier this month to burglary, felony criminal damage and misdemeanor theft in connection with the Nov. 3 fire that heavily damaged the International Order of Odd Fellows Lodge 14.


The lodge occupies the upper floors of the building at 22 N. Main St., Janesville. Also damaged was a neighboring upper-floor apartment in the building occupied by The Looking Glass tavern on the ground floor.


Brown was sentenced to one year in jail, five years probation, 200 hours of community service, $450 court costs and restitution.


“It would have been nice to see him sit in prison a little longer because of the malicious intent toward the Odd Fellows,” said Matthew Schreier, owner of The Looking Glass.


“With the restitution, I’m satisfied,” said Jeff Jones, a member of the lodge. “With the sentence, I think he should have done more time in prison instead of just a year in the Rock County Jail.”


On Wednesday, Judge Michael Byron ordered Brown to pay $37,595 in restitution:


-- $36,195 to the Odd Fellows, which is the difference between what the lodge’s insurance company paid and what the Odd Fellows will have to pay to restore the lodge and its contents to their former condition.


-- $1,400 to Schreier for the $500 insurance deductible he paid and the $900 rent he lost from the burned apartment.


Schreier’s insurance company paid more than $9,750, according to files entered in court records.


The Odd Fellows insurance company paid more than $125,000 for the structural damage, but the lowest bid the lodge received to restore the building was more than $156,000, Jones told the judge.


In addition, the insurance settlement was more than $5,000 short to replace the lodge’s contents, a figure that Brown’s attorney, assistant public defender Walter Isaacson, did not dispute.


He did dispute the difference between the insurance settlement and the repair cost. Isaacson said the difference amounted to depreciation on the building.


But Byron noted that, according to the law, he did not have to consider depreciation but could order not only restitution to restore the property to its former condition but also restitution to the insurance companies.


“There’s no question that these losses were caused by the defendant (through the crimes),” Byron said.


Brown was not charged with arson.


Assistant district attorney Scott Dirks explained earlier that one reason he did not charge Brown with arson was that he would have to prove that Brown not only set the fire but also intended to set the fire.


Collecting the restitution will be a “long, slow process,” Jones said. “We’ve been told we might get $100 a month. It will be a long time to get $30,000.”


Odd Fellows members are doing much of the work that was in the bid—demolition and eventually painting—to make up the difference between the bid and the insurance settlement so restoration can be done soon, Jones said.


“We’re still tearing out what needs to be torn out in order to rebuild,” he said.


Meanwhile, lodge members are meeting when and where they can, Jones said.



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