Despite glowing assurances that he is remorseful and reformed, and pleas that his young family needs him, former Lyons resident Rick T. Lamb was sentenced Friday to six years in prison for setting fire to a rental home, then filing an insurance claim and collecting community donations.
Standing before Fulton County Common Pleas Court Judge James E. Barber, it was the first time Lamb, who has steadfastly denied the charges, publicly admitted responsibility for the crimes.
Shackled and wearing gray jail-issued clothes, the convicted arsonist lowered is head and quietly said, “No, sir,” when Judge Barber asked if there was any reason sentencing for the convictions shouldn’t be carried out.
He sentenced Lamb to six years for aggravated arson, and 11 months each for insurance fraud, grand theft, telecommunications fraud, and falsification in a theft. The sentences will be served concurrently, for a total of six years, with credit for 71 days of incarceration at the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio.
Lamb was also ordered to pay restitution in the amounts of $8,381 to the state fire marshals office and $18,500 to Nationwide Insurance to cover the costs of their investigations into the arson.
He had been found not guilty of a second charge of aggravated arson, and could not be sentenced for the arson charge because he was being sentenced for aggravated arson.
He was originally charged with seven counts for setting fire Jan. 3, 2015, to a rental home his family occupied at 104 Ash St. in Lyons, then accepting an outpouring of donations from the community and filing a claim with Nationwide Insurance. He faced the possibility of 13 1/2 years in prison.
Prior to sentencing, Lamb’s attorney, Thomas Molitierno, told the court, which included an audience of Lamb’s family members and supporters, the arson was committed because Lamb’s remodeling contracting job had slowed and he couldn’t receive unemployment. Molitierno said that made Lamb desperate over not being able to support his wife and three children.
“While Ricky’s financial woes did not make his conduct lawful, they do make the conduct more understandable,” Molitierno said.
He said Lamb’s financial situation improved before he was indicted for his crimes, allowing him to purchase a home in Maumee, an SUV, and a truck, mostly with cash.
“By the time the case went to court (Lamb’s) financial problems were behind him,” he said. “Obviously, had that streak of luck come to him earlier, he wouldn’t have been in the financial mess that he was in.”
Molitierno also told the court Lamb went to trial because experts hired for his defense said he wouldn’t receive arson convictions because the cause and origin of the fire were not determined.
During Lamb’s incarceration at CCNO he was a model inmate, completing anger management, financial literacy, and self-awareness programs, among other accomplishments, the attorney said. He added that Lamb has expressed remorse for the consequences of the fire.
“I would tell you that Ricky is remorseful not because he’s facing punishment or caught, but because of the situation that he put other people in, and, most especially in his mind, his wife and children.”
Molitierno suggested Lamb receive community control, including house arrest, rather than prison time. He said that way Lamb could work, stay with his family, and pay restitution to the state fire marshal’s office and Nationwide Insurance, and experience a more meaningful rehabilitation.
“We think it’s better for everybody,” he said. “It would eliminate a lot of the collateral damage that locking him up would do. He’s not asking for a free ride, he’s really just asking for the opportunity to be the stand-up, responsible person he should have been all along were it not for kind of caving in to the pressure.”
Then Lamb spoke, giving a rambling statement that offered his history up to, and including, the arson.
“I was backed into a corner. I felt hopeless,” he said. “I made the worst decision of my life at that point…I feel awful. I failed my wife, I failed my kids, and, most of all, my community as well.”
Lamb said before being indicted he completed an alcohol treatment program and marital counseling, and now owns a successful company. He asked the court to recognize those accomplishments.
“From the moment after the fire, I decided change was needed…Please give me a chance to salvage my life,” he said. “I believe I have obvious support. All I need is a chance and a little faith.”
The court heard statements of support from Lamb’s mother and mother-in-law, and from his wife, Desteny, who recently was indicted on four counts related to the arson case.
“My husband by no means is perfect, but he is not a bad person. He always has the best intentions,” she read from a written statement. “Given the chance, Ricky will exceed expectations.”
Assistant Prosecutor Paul Kennedy, who asked Judge Barber to impose a 10-year sentence, said contrary to the support Lamb received from family members and supporters, “this trial revealed the person he truly is, which is a con artist.”
Kennedy said many people fall onto hard times, “(but) that doesn’t mean that they then do things to damage other people’s property or take advantage of the goodwill of others, as the defendant did. He took advantage of so many people, and worst of all risked the safety of the firemen that appeared at the house that night…
“The fact that he didn’t articulate that he is sorry to those people demonstrates that he has no remorse for what he did.”
Judge Barber told Lamb, “This entire matter is just such a tragedy, just such a tragedy.”
He said firemen who entered the burning house could have been killed due to Lamb’s actions. “Frankly, you’re lucky that you are not here before this court on two counts of aggravated murder and a life sentence,” he said.
David J. Coehrs can be reached at 419-335-2010.