A 21-year-old who pleaded no contest last month to a charge of arson for starting a fire that caused an estimated $1.8 million in damage to San Luis Obispo High School’s computer lab in 2016 was formally sentenced in San Luis Obispo Superior Court on Monday.
Superior Court Judge Jacquelyn Duffy sentenced Jacob Lee Ruth, of San Luis Obispo, to six years of state prison time, a sentence Duffy suspended pending Ruth’s completion of five years of supervised probation and other requirements.
Following the hearing, Brad Cornelius, an attorney representing Ruth, declined to comment on the specifics of the case other to say that his client is ready to move on with his life.
Despite receiving no additional jail time in exchange for his July 20 plea of no contest to a felony charge of arson — a charge that a jury failed to agree on in an August 2017 trial — Cornelius said Monday that Ruth spent 581 days in San Luis Obispo County Jail as his case played out.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
At the end of his first, two-week trial, a jury convicted Ruth of two charges of burglary and one count of arson stemming from the destruction of a portable toilet on campus. But a lone juror refused to convict Ruth of the arson charge related to the computer lab fire, causing a mistrial.
Ruth was scheduled to go to trial again Aug. 13.
The San Luis Coastal Unified School District estimated the damage to school property to come to about $1.8 million. Ruth and his former co-defendants, Michael Benadiba and Cameron Bratcher, will be on the hook for at least some of that money.
A restitution hearing is scheduled for later this month.
Ruth, Benadiba and Bratcher are alleged to have started the fire as a prank in the early morning hours of Dec. 8, 2016. All three are former students at San Luis Obispo High School; Ruth graduated and Bratcher withdrew from the school in 2015, while Benadiba transferred to Pacific Beach High School.
Ruth’s entered into the plea agreement shortly after Benadiba pleaded no contest in May to felony charges of recklessly causing a structure fire and second-degree commercial burglary. Benadiba, 20, is currently serving a roughly four-month sentence in County Jail.
Bratcher, 20, accepted a plea agreement in December 2017, pleading no contest to a felony charge of being an accessory to a crime. A sentencing hearing date was not available Monday.
Local news matters: We rely on readers like you more than ever before, and we currently offer free access to five stories a month. Support us further with a digital subscription to help ensure we can provide strong local journalism for many years to come. #ReadLocal