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Despite his continuing claims of innocence, a Shalersville man was sentenced Monday to eight years in prison for setting his Kent jail cell on fire.
Marc Rabatin was convicted in April of setting the fire after being booked on drunken driving charges.
On Monday, he told Common Pleas Judge Laurie Pittman he believes he was convicted of felony arson "only because I would not plead out and admit guilt."
Accused of setting a fire that caused the Sept. 7 evacuation of the Kent city jail, Rabatin said another inmate walked into the jail that day "un-searched," and likely committed the arson.
"I believe he was the source," Rabatin, 48, told Pittman. "All the persons responsible at the Kent city jail that day walked free."
"I was hoping you'd take some responsibility," Pittman replied, saying the whole incident was capture on video that both she and the jury watched intently. "You were the only one in the cell at that time. You don't remember anything about that day, you've said that."
A jury on April 25 found Rabatin guilty of two counts of aggravated arson, one count of assaulting a police officer, two counts of OVI, one count of refusal to submit to chemical sobriety tests and one count of menacing for his actions last fall in Kent.
Pittman gave Rabatin eight years in prison on the most serious arson charge, a first-degree felony, along with four years in prison on a second charge of second-degree felony aggravated arson, 18 months in prison for assaulting a Kent police officer who was trying to save his life, 90 days on each of two drunken driving charges and a charge of refusing sobriety tests, with a final 30 days for menacing an employee of the Haymaker Farmers Market — the initial incident that got him arrested that day.
All those sentences were run concurrent to each other, for a total of eight years with credit for 138 days already served awaiting trial, Pittman ruled. In addition, Rabatin must pay $3,450 restitution to the Kent Police Department within 15 years, along with nearly $1,500 in criminal fines and court costs.
Attorney Troy Reeves told Pittman that despite his protestations, Rabatin is "very remorseful" for his actions.
"He had a bad day with some bad consequences," Reeves said. "I think he deserves a minimum sentence."
However, Assistant Portage County Prosecutor Eric Finnegan said Rabatin's issues go "well-beyond" a drinking problem. He asked Pittman to impose the maximum 11 years on the most serious arson charge, plus for an additional 18 months for Rabatin's assault on Officer Samantha Burton, committed while she was trying to rescue him from the smoke-filled jail.
"Everything that happens that day comes back" on Rabatin, Finnegan told Pittman. "Belligerence doesn't even begin to describe it."
Wayne Bennett, a character witness who spoke in court Monday in Rabatin's defense, said Rabatin only "opened his mouth where he shouldn't have," and disputed the facts of the whole case .
"I must compliment the prosecutor on the job he did of selling to the jury that Marc isn't a very good person," Bennett said.
"He did a heck of a job of that himself that day," Pittman retorted. "It's all on video."
Moments later, when Bennett said Rabatin's conviction "just goes to show you can't fight city hall," Pittman again rebuffed his claims.
"Not when you commit a crime you can't," the judge replied. "I'm OK with you saying he is a good man, but he was found guilty by a jury of his peers."
In a letter to the Record-Courier sent from the Portage County jail, Rabatin said he was searched at time of arrest, with no combustible or fire-setting materials found, then carried to cell No. 3. Once the fire broke out, jailers evacuated the cellblock and carried Rabatin — clad only in his underwear — from the smoke-filled cell, images that were captured on video.
Following his conviction, he also petitioned Pittman to investigate "evidence" of woven material found in his cell that he claimed was not part of his T-shirt and not presented by prosecutors at his trial.
"I have been wrongfully convicted of this crime," he wrote in a letter to the R-C, putting his name as "Innocent" over the return address.