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Teen Gets 10 Years For Arson That Destroyed San Jose School

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Trace Elementary School after the fire (Bruce Dembecki)

Trace Elementary School after the fire. (Bruce Dembecki)

SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — A teenager convicted of arson in the destruction of an elementary school in San Jose was sentenced to 10 years in state prison Friday in Santa Clara County Superior Court, according to the district attorney’s office.

Kliefert Guiang, 19, became the second young man sentenced for setting fire to Trace Elementary School on July 5, 2010, destroying 16 classrooms, the school’s library and administrative offices, the district attorney’s office reported.

Guiang’s co-defendant, Lazarus Reavallez, 19, was sentenced to eight years after his conviction in the arson last year.

Both defendants, who were 16 years old when they started the fire, were tried as adults following their arrest in October 2010.

The original charge against Guiang was aggravated arson, carrying a sentence of 10 years to life, but prosecutors allowed him to plead guilty to a lesser felony of arson on a structure and a four-year enhancement for causing more than $3.5 million in damage.

Guiang also agreed to plead guilty to a count of felony child endangerment for forcing an 11-year-old boy left in his care to accompany the two suspects to the school leading up to the fire.

Guiang’s sentencing was delayed after he was sent to a state mental hospital for evaluation and later deemed competent by doctors and a judge to return to court, according to prosecutors.

The two boys, who never attended the Trace school, at 651 Dana Ave., started fires on two different sides of the school that later caused $14 million in damage, prosecutors said.

Both confessed to lighting the fires at the conclusion of investigations by the San Jose Fire Department, San Jose Police Department, the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department and the district attorney’s office.

Students, faculty and administrators of the school had to make do in portable classrooms in the fall of 2010, but people from all over the world sent donations that eventually helped fund the building of a new school at the site.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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