Justice Must Be Served

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The Rodeo-Chediski Fire is nearly 100 percent contained, and the residents of those affected communities on the east side of Rim country are attempting to put their lives back in order.

And while they do that, our trusted legal system is attempting to deal justice fairly.

In the case of Leonard Gregg, the 29-year-old Cibecue firefighter who admitted igniting the Rodeo Fire, the court has denied him bail, and he will remain in jail until his trial. If convicted, Gregg could face up to 10 years in prison, and be fined as much as $500,000.

Some have argued that the fine seems ludicrious for a man who most likely would never be able to pay such a hefty bill. We've also heard the argument that 10 years is not nearly a long enough sentence for a man who deliberately torched a tinder-dry forest.

As for Valinda Jo Elliott, the 31-year-old Phoenix woman who said she started the Chediski Fire, justice has been dreadfully slow.

Elliott has reportedly admitted to starting the fire to signal a passing news helicopter yet this week, federal prosecutors are debating what charges, if any, should be filed against her.

There should be no debate. Elliott touched off a firestorm as deliberately as Gregg, albeit without the same malicious intent. She was allegedly trespassing on tribal land when she became lost, and showed complete disregard for the forest when she started her signal fire, despite statewide declarations that have been made for months announcing that Arizona was under the most extreme fire danger in its history.

If there is to be justice, Elliott should face jail time and pay a fine if she's convicted. We agree she should not be dealt with as severely as Gregg, but she must be held accountable for her role in the mass destruction of Arizona's Rim country.

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