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Local man to serve 10 years in string of arsons

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District Judge Jack Robison upholds plea deal and imposes 10-year jail term, 10-year probated sentence, for couple implicated in 2008, 2009 fires

By LPR Staff
Editor/POST-REGISTER

Two years of waiting and wondering came to a close for a Lockhart family – and those who have been watching their case with interest – on Thursday afternoon when 207th Jud

icial District Judge Jack Robison imposed sentencing on Jason Doyle, 38, and Kelly Doyle, 27.

The pair were implicated in two fires in their Lockhart home in December 2008 and January 2009, as well as a third fire which destroyed the home of a relative on Jan. 6, 2009. Last month, both plead guilty to arson charges in connection with the first two fires, and no lo contendre to charges in connection with the third fire. On Thursday, the case came before Robison, who was asked to decide whether the incidents were so serious that prison was required, or whether a probation sentence would be sufficient punishment for a couple who, as they put it “made regrettable mistakes.”

The terms of the plea deal with the Caldwell County District Attorney’s Office left open a range of punishment from probation to prison time, with a 12-year maximum allowable sentence, for both Jason and Kelly.

New Braunfels attorney Matt Kyle, who represented J. Doyle throughout the criminal proceedings, put his client on the stand to appeal to the judge for the more lenient sentence of probation.

During his testimony, Doyle said that he and his wife take on the role as co-parents for their three children, and that his being sent to jail would create a hardship on his family. He also said he’d recently found employment – a task that had been difficult for him because, as a professional firefighter, he’d lost his job after being indicted on the arson charges.

“If I could go back in time and change it, I would,” Doyle said. “It was a regrettable incident… I need to be home with my wife and my children, to be a breadwinner for my family.”

Under cross examination by Caldwell County District Attorney Trey Hicks, Doyle discussed his training and experience as a professional firefighter, and noted that, although he understands the nature of fire as being uncontrollable, he has personally never felt his life at risk while fighting a fire.

He also said that he did not remember how or why any of the three fires had been started, but said if he could go back in time and change it, he would do so.

After Doyle’s testimony, Kyle asked his client’s mother to share her views on appropriate punishment for her son and daughter-in-law.

Linda Doyle described the actions that led to the fires and later the criminal prosecution as “out of character,” and urged the judge to consider being lenient, and allowing the family to stay together and out of jail.
She also suggested the responsibility of raising the couple’s three minor children would fall to her and her husband, should they be imprisoned, and said although the grandparents did and would take an active role in the children’s lives, they would be better served by remaining in a home with both their mother and their father.

Tamara Needles, the attorney for Kelly Doyle, opted not to question either witness, and she
did not ask her own client to testify. Instead, she simply asked Robison to take notice of a pre-sentencing investigation performed by the Caldwell County Community Supervision and Corrections Department (Caldwell County Probation).

The report recommended to the Court that both defendants be granted deferred adjudication probation for a period of ten years – meaning, if they completed probation successfully and uphold all the conditions of community supervision, the charges would not show as a conviction on any future criminal record.

Hicks asked the Judge to consider the full 12-year prison term for both.

After hearing arguments and evidence, Robison immediately delivered his verdict, ordering the ten-year deferred adjudication probation term for Kelly Doyle, and a 10-year jail sentence for Jason.

The decision to impose a jail sentence, he said, was based in large part upon Doyle’s 17-year career as a professional firefighter. Robison suggested as a firefighter, he knew, or should have known, the danger in which his actions placed others. He said his decision was guided in part what he called, “situational amnesia,” referencing Doyle’s claims that he could remember neither how nor why the fires were started.

J. Doyle was remanded to the custody of the Caldwell County Jail, where he will remain pending a transfer to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. With “good time,” Hicks said, Doyle could serve as little as two and one-half years behind bars.

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