Convicted of arson, a 25-year-old Centreville man could well have been sentenced to many years in prison. Instead, Giancarlo Deleon received a suspended sentence and will receive the mental-health treatment he needs.
“The functions of sentencing are punishment, deterrence and rehabilitation, said Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Marin Hoplamazian. “And in this case, rehabilitation would best serve the safety and protection of the community.”
She was addressing Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Jane Roush, last Friday afternoon, July 18, during Deleon’s sentencing. On Feb. 13, he’d set fire to the single-family home he rented on Scotch Run Court. Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department units responded around 12:30 a.m., driving through heavy snow to reach the blaze. Upon arrival, they encountered flames coming from the basement of the three-story house and spreading to a neighboring home.
A second alarm was struck, bringing more than 60 firefighters from stations in Centreville, Chantilly, Fair Oaks, Fairfax and Oakton. Four people were home when the fire began, but were able to escape uninjured.
Deleon was arrested at the scene. Fire officials said he intentionally set fire to clothes that were saturated with an ignitable liquid. Conversations with him and with other witnesses led to him being charged.
On May 28, in Circuit Court, Deleon pleaded guilty to arson of an occupied dwelling. He returned Friday for sentencing, and Hoplamazian said he owes $110,000 restitution – $100,000 for the house he lived in and $10,000 for the home next door.
Defense attorney Rob Robertson told the judge his client had no prior arrests. He also noted that 10 relatives and friends of Deleon’s were in the front row of the courtroom to support him. Instead of having each of them testify on his behalf, Robertson proffered to Roush, “Their testimony would be that ‘this was extremely out of character for him.’”
“He’s got some serious, mental-health issues that need to be addressed,” said Roush. And now that Deleon’s friends and relatives know that, agreed Robertson, they’ll keep “a close eye” on him.
However, said Hoplamazian, “This case is troubling because the defendant put multiple people in grave danger – they could have died. This wasn’t his intention, but it was the scenario.”
Then, at the bench, the judge read to herself the report of psychiatrist Charles Samenow, who’d examined Deleon. She said the doctor concluded the young man needed further examination and treatment.
“The defendant did plead guilty to the malicious burning – a criminal felony,” said Hoplamazian. “But clearly, there are mental handicaps and disturbances. I think, in the long run, what would be the most beneficial is mental-health treatment. It’s disturbing what [Deleon] said he was seeing and feeling [at the time of the fire]. In his statements, he indicated his dislike of people.”
Saying she didn’t believe incarceration would do him any good, the prosecutor then asked Roush to sentence Deleon to substance-abuse and mental-health treatment and evaluation, plus “a lengthy period of probation.”
Robertson agreed, noting that his client has been in jail since the incident, five months ago.
Deleon chose not to speak before sentencing, but Roush spoke to him. “This is a serious crime and you’re very fortunate you didn’t kill anyone,” she said.
She then sentenced him to five years in prison, suspending all that time, and placed him on three years active probation. Roush also ordered him to receive substance-abuse and mental-health evaluations and to comply with his probation officer’s recommendations regarding treatment.
In addition, the judge ordered Deleon to pay $110,000 restitution and stated that, as a convicted felon, a sample of his DNA would be entered into the state’s DNA data base. “You have a lot of family support here,” she told him. “Don’t let them down and don’t let me down.”
Afterward, outside the courtroom, Robertson explained that – before Deleon committed the crime – he’d been working and had had an argument with his boss. “He was suffering from depression and was having a delusion at the time of the incident,” said the attorney. “He’s a good kid who just suffered a break. I’m pleased with the outcome – I think it’s the appropriate sentence.”