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Former Babbitt fire chief gets five years for arson

DULUTH -- A former Babbitt fire chief will serve five years in federal prison for setting a series of fires in the Superior National Forest.

Ryan Scharber was sentenced Thursday in U.S. District Court in Duluth. Scharber, who likely will serve his time at the federal prison camp in Duluth, was ordered to turn himself in to authorities June 2.

Scharber, 30, pleaded guilty in November to setting nine forest fires and trying to set fire to a resort, over a period of 13 months in 2010 and 2011.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Dunne argued at the hearing that a mandatory minimum sentence of five years is required by federal law. But defense attorney Joe Tamburino sought a below-guideline sentence, arguing that Scharber did not act with malicious intent in setting the fires.

Judge John Tunheim agreed with the prosecutor, determining that the five-year sentence was required by law, without commenting on whether it was an appropriate sentence in Scharber’s case.

Tamburino said he will appeal the sentence, which he must do within two weeks.