High court: Probation OK for Detroit landlord who set fire, blamed black man

The Associated Press

Detroit – The Michigan Supreme Court has reinstated a sentence of probation for a Detroit-area landlord who pleaded no contest to setting a fire at his apartment building in 2007.

Giovanni Naccarato’s case began in 2011 but has bounced between Wayne County Circuit Court and higher courts after Judge Margie Braxton declined to send him to prison. He had faced four years or more.

The Supreme Court had the final say Friday, overturning an opinion from the Michigan appeals court and reinstating three years of probation.

Braxton had noted that no one was hurt in the fire. She also said that Naccarato had no prior convictions, appeared remorseful and had a good job at Ford Motor Co. He suffered burns in the fire and was in a hospital for six weeks.

The Supreme Court said the judge adequately explained why probation fit instead of prison. Justices Stephen Markman and Elizabeth Clement disagreed.

“This was a serious crime and, although defendant attempted to ensure that the building was empty before he started the fire, he nevertheless placed a number of people in danger of harm and a firefighter was, in fact, injured,” they said.

“He also lied to the firefighters arriving on the scene and sought to blame the fire on a ‘black man’ he had supposedly seen fleeing from the building,” Markman and Clement said.