Robert Fanning, the convicted Clairemont arsonist, was sentenced to the maximum 14 years in state prison Wednesday by an angry judge who wanted to impose a longer sentence.
"The maximum I can give him is 14 years and 8 months," said Superior Court Judge Michael I. Greer. "If I could give him more, I would give him more."
Fanning, 34, was convicted in December on 38 arson and burglary counts. The convictions stem from 26 arson fires in the Clairemont area between March, 1982, and January, 1984. If the maximum sentences for every count were added together they would total 178 years in state prison.
Instead, Greer said that the sentencing laws, as written by the Legislature, compelled him to stay 163 years and four months of the sentence. Greer is widely recognized as one of the state's foremost experts on the sentencing laws.
"The sentence that is stayed is, as they say, on the house," Greer said.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Harry M. Elias had asked for an 18-year sentence, while defense attorney Gary Edwards argued that the maximum sentence Greer could impose was 13 years.
"I have to deal with the fact that Mr. Fanning has maintained his innocence from the outset," Edwards said. He noted that only garages were burned and added that "there was never any evidence that the perpetrator ever intended to hurt anyone."
"Let's see if we can put all of this in English," Greer said. " . . . I believe Mr. Fanning is guilty, (and) the very denial of Mr. Fanning indicates how sick he is and how dangerous he is to the public."
Greer said he was satisfied with the evidence and jury that convicted Fanning. But he added, "How can you treat someone if he doesn't admit his crime?"
Edwards said that psychiatric reports indicated that Fanning is mentally disturbed.
The prosecution revealed after the trial that Fanning, a homosexual, had served eight years in Washington state prisons for various sex offenses and was judged to be a sexual psychopath.