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Galleria arson suspect pleads guilty

Piggee faces 40 years behind bars, but could end up with 10
By: ToLewis, The Press Tribune
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Alexander Piggee pleaded guilty today to setting the blaze that caused more than $55 million in damages to the Westfield Galleria at Roseville. Piggee, 23, of Sacramento, also pleaded guilty to starting a small fire that caused minor damages at a Wal-Mart store. Both fires occurred on Oct. 21. Piggee, who originally pleaded not guilty at his arraignment on Feb. 9, faces up to 20 years in federal prison for each count of arson. Prosecutors have agreed, however, to recommend Piggee receive the minimum 5-year sentence for each count of arson, according to Lauren Horwood of the Department of Justice, Eastern District of California. “Looking at the totality of the case and discussing it with the defense attorney, that’s what they decided would be the fairest outcome in this case,” Horwood said. Piggee could end up serving a total of 10 years behind bars – five years for each count – if the district court judge follows the U.S. Attorney’s recommendation when he is sentenced on May 24, Horwood said. “I’m very pleased and gratified with the U.S. Attorney’s offer and position on the case,” said defense attorney Johnny Lewis Griffin III. “I think they took into account all the factors surrounding the circumstances of the fire, including the extent of the damages and the basis for the extent of the damages.” According to court documents, Piggee started the first fire around 4:30 a.m. Oct. 21 in the garden department of a Wal Mart on Antelope Road in Sacramento County. Several hours later, Piggee entered the Game Stop in the Galleria mall, ordered a store employee to leave and started a fire in the back of the store. The fire then spread through the ceiling and ultimately destroyed a large portion of the mall. A Westfield maintenance worker who believed he was acting on police orders shut off sprinklers during the Galleria mall blaze, according to a report released by the city in December. Griffin said the extensive amount of damages would have been reduced significantly had the sprinkler system in the mall activated. “Keep in mind when the sprinkler systems were on, they worked,” Griffin said. “When the sprinkler systems were activated, the fire was being extinguished. When the sprinkler systems were shut off, the fire flared back up.” Griffin said Piggee also intends to plead guilty to an additional arson charge for setting fire to his grandmother’s home in Sacramento County in the days preceding the Galleria fire. The Sacramento County District Attorney’s office has agreed to run whatever jail time he recieves for that charge concurrent with the federal time, Griffin said. “He’s always accepted responsibility for his actions,” Griffin said. “The issue has always been whether or not those actions were initially the product of a mental health condition, and I think they were.” Griffin said Piggee suffered from a serious mental health condition around the time of the fires, but has greatly improved since receiving mental health in both the Placer County and Sacramento County jails. “I no longer have a concern about his mental health condition other than some depression issues,” he said. Piggee is scheduled to be sentenced at 9:30 a.m. on May 24 before U.S. District Judge John A. Mendez in a Sacramento Federal District courtroom. Toby Lewis can be reached at tobyl@goldcountrymedia.com