Rabbi, son avoid prison time in deadly blaze that killed firefighter, nursing home resident
There was outrage in court in Rockland County where a father and son avoided prison time for starting a fire that killed a firefighter and a man at a nursing home.
Dozens of firefighters protested outside the Rockland County Court House in New City and emotional victim impact statements were read in court.
While a plea deal was agreed upon in June, Wednesday was the formal sentencing for 71-year-old Rabbi Nathaniel Sommer and his 29-year-old son Aaron after pleading guilty for causing the March 2021 fatal fire that killed Spring Valley Firefighter Jared Lloyd.
Spring Valley Fire Department
A resident of the home, 79-7ear-old Oliver Hueston, was also killed.
In a plea deal with the Rockland District Attorney’s Office that was approved by Judge Kevin Russo, the father and son will not serve jail or prison time but will pay $600 in court fees.
The plea deal sparked outrage and calls for Rockland District Attorney Thomas Walsh, currently running unopposed in November’s election, to resign. Firefighters across the county have banned him their firehouses and events.
Sommer admitted to using a 20-pound propane blowtorch to cleanse the Evergreen Court ovens and kitchen for Passover.
He pleaded to two felony counts of second-degree manslaughter, and his son pleaded guilty to misdemeanor second-degree reckless endangerment.
The plea deal was reached because they have no record and there is no legal precedence for death connected to a religious ritual.
Lloyd rescued several residents before becoming trapped himself.
“My life has been turned upside down these last two and a half years because of a reckless act that caused the tragic death of my only child, how does a negligent act of these defendants warrant no jail time,” Lloyd’s mother Sabrail Davenport said.
One of the defendants also addressed the court to issue an apology.
“I am sorry, I feel terrible for what I did, I tried my whole life to help people and I did the exact opposite here and hurt so many people and I feel terrible for them,” Nathaniel Sommer said.
Despite the emotional pleas, the judge did not deviate from the pre-agreed upon plea.
“As a former first responder I do not agree with the sentencing given to the two people responsible for the Evergreen Court deadly blaze not facing any jail time for their reckless and felonious behavior,” County Executive Ed Day said in a statement. “As I have stated countless times, the Lloyd and Hueston families do not feel this is justice for their loved ones who perished in that fire. I extend my heartfelt condolences to the families now serving a life sentence as they mourn the loved ones serving a death sentence.”