B.C. Supreme Court judge orders convicted arsonist to turn over DNA sample and serve two-year prison sentence

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      An Esquimalt landlord will spend two years in a federal penitentiary after he set fire to one of his tenant's belongings to try to intimidate him to leave.

      B.C. Supreme Court Justice Robin Baird also ordered Wei George Li to turn over a sample of his DNA to authorities.

      In October, a jury convicted Li in connection with the fire at 318 Uganda Avenue two years earlier, according to the ruling.

      In so doing, the jury rejected his claim that the blaze was ignited by an electrical spark when Li turned on the garage light.

      Li was sentenced on January 17 and the oral reasons for sentence were placed on the B.C. Supreme Court website today.

      "The upper floor was rented and occupied by a person called Billy Montgomery," Baird said. "The adjoining half of the duplex was owned and occupied by Ms. Irene Brett who had sold the other half of the residence to the accused a year or so before.

      "For quite some number of months before the fire, the accused had been involved in a pitched and heated dispute with Mr. Montgomery," Baird continued. "He had served Mr. Montgomery with an eviction notice and relations between them had become extremely volatile. On the day of the fire, the accused arrived at the property and entered the basement suite."

      Montgomery was angry that Li showed up unannounced when he had overnight guests. The jury was told that he yelled at Li, shouting racial epithets.

      The jury concluded that after Montgomery and his house guests left, Li entered the garage and deliberate torched Montgomery's belongings. The fire damaged the duplex structure next door and, according to the judge, the firefighters who extinguished the blaze "were intentionally exposed to peril".

      A half hour after setting the fire, Li drove to the airport and boarded a plane to Eastern Canada.

      "The accused proceeded through airport security and asked for assistance because he was in pain from burns to his hands, neck, and face," Baird said. "He confirmed to airport staff that there had been an explosion at his house and that he had left the property without reporting the resulting conflagration to the authorities."

      Airport staff sought medical assistance for Li and also called the police, who showed up and arrested him.

      Arson carries a maximum 14-year prison sentence.

      "The accused's degree of responsibility for committing it is high, especially, as I have said, considering the planning and deliberation that went into it," Baird said. "The cases are unanimous that denunciation and deterrence are the key sentencing principles to be served in this matter.

      "Measured against this, however, the accused is a 50-year-old man of previously good character without any history of criminal misconduct. For this reason, principally, I intend to emphasise the lower end of the range of applicable sentences."

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