Terry Barton’s 12-year prison sentence for starting the largest wildfire in Colorado history was thrown out yesterday by the Colorado Court of Appeals in part because the judge failed to disclose how the fire affected him personally, reports the Denver Post. The appeals court ordered that Barton, who was a U.S. Forest Service employee, she be given a new sentencing hearing before a different judge. The appeals court said Judge Edward Colt overstepped his authority when he sentenced Barton to double the normal maximum sentence for her crime. The court said Colt, who evacuated his home for a night because of smoke from the fire, should have recused himself.
Barton’s attorney believes the new sentence will not be more than six years. She is serving a six-year federal term for the same crime, with an expected release date of June 2008. Some victims of the fire said the ruling brought back a sense of anger and frustration with the system.