A former Indianapolis police officer who set a string of apartment fires won't serve time in jail.
Jesse Russell Jr., 33, was convicted of arson in September for setting a fire at the Lake View Terrace Apartments that caused $30,000 worth of damage. He pleaded guilty to another count of arson for setting fire to a box truck in the 8400 block of East Washington Street.
Russell was sentenced Friday to three years suspended and six years on probation.
Judge Grant Hawkins expressed concern about Russell's safety if he sentenced him to prison.
Prosecutors wanted Russell to serve prison time.
"It damages all of us, and it damages our credibility to stand in front of a jury and stand in front of our officers when they are on the witness stand, and say, 'This is someone we trust and believe in,'" said Deputy Prosecutor Mark Busby. "When someone like Jesse Russell tarnishes that image, it tarnishes it for everybody."
While on probation, Russell must undergo a mental evaluation and treatment and he must pay $21,000 in restitution for burning a box truck. He must be employed within 30 days or, if he's not employed, he must perform 24 hours of community service a week.
If Russell successfully completes his probation he can come back to the court and ask for alternative misdemeanor sentencing.
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