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15-year-old fined $36M for starting forest fire; lawyer calls it 'cruel and unusual' punishment

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A 15-year-old teen pleaded guilty to starting forest fire that burned 48,000 acres in Oregon last year. A judge ordered a teenager to pay nearly $37 million in restitution. (Image source: Video screenshot)

An Oregon judge ordered a teenager to pay nearly $37 million in restitution for starting the Eagle Creek forest fire that burned more 48,000 acres near Portland last year, KOIN-TV reported.

The 15-year-old's lawyer called the Hood River County Circuit Court Judge John Olson's opinion that totaled $36,618,330.24 "cruel and unusual" punishment.

The teen pleaded guilty in February to charges of "tossing a couple of fireworks" on the Eagle Creek trail while hiking, which set the forest on fire Sept. 2, 2017, according to court documents.

Olson said the judgment "is clearly proportionate to the offense because it does not exceed the financial damages caused by the youth" and isn't a violation of the constitution.

Eleven different companies and agencies filed damage claims with the court.

"In short, I'm satisfied that the restitution ordered in this case bears a sufficient relationship to the gravity of the offenses for which the youth was adjudicated," the judge wrote.

Will the teen really have to pay full restitution?

The court noted that the teen would not be able to pay the full amount immediately, or in his lifetime, so it is working with the Hood River Juvenile Department to create an affordable payment plan.

"If the youth wants to appeal this judgment, there's a lawful mechanism for him to do that, then they'll get a statewide answer from the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court," Phil Lemman, Oregon Judicial Department spokesman, told KOIN.

In 10 years, after the youth complies with the payment plan and he completes probation without any additional offenses, the court will have the option to grant a full or partial satisfaction of the restitution.

"The goal in this is to not get every last dollar the youth will make or ever will, but it will provide a structure so victims are acknowledged in their loss and the payments are made so that the youth has the ability to do that, and also to reform him, and also to deter criminal conduct," Lemman said.

Will his parents be liable for any portion of the restitution?

According to Lemman, the teen's parents will not be held responsible for the restitution.

However, if the victims choose to do so, they could file a civil suit against the parents.

What are the award amounts in the case?

The court awarded restitution on behalf of the following victims in the following amounts:

● $5,000 to Iris Schenk

● $8,111.44 to Allstate Insurance

● $31,550.90 to Oregon State Parks

● $100,000 to Heuker Properties

● $168,000 to Trail Club of Oregon

● $1,048,877.52 to Union Pacific Railroad

● $1,643,035.38 to Oregon State Fire Marshall

● $12,500,000 to Oregon Department of Transportation

● $21,113,755 to U.S. Forest Service

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