OGDEN -- A 65-year-old man was sentenced to three years' probation on an arson charge for a fire he set while wearing no pants.
Turns out Gregory Rueckert is a military veteran on disability from a service-related head injury who went off his medication, according to officials.
Rueckert was given credit for time already served in jail, according to court records, and will be released to the George E. Wahlen Ogden Veteran's Home as soon as bed space is available. His only prior criminal record apparently came three years ago when he again went off his medication.
Rueckert left a small bag of trash on fire against an apartment door at the Lake Park Apartments, where he lived in Washington Terrace last July 9, according to charging documents.
Witnesses advised police they saw Rueckert light the fire while naked from the waist down. There were no injuries and damage was minimal.
In a plea bargain in February, Rueckert got something of a break because of his mental state, the arson charge reduced to a third-degree felony charge and the misdemeanor lewdness count dismissed in a plea bargain. The arson was initially charged as a first-degree felony aggravated arson, which could have brought a possible life prison term because people were on the premises where the fire was started.
Rueckert spent five months in the Utah State Hospital -- the state mental health facility in Provo -- after he was found incompetent to stand trial last September following two psychiatric examinations.
"He has no recollection of the incident in July," Rueckert's public defender Jim Retallick said. He couldn't detail his client's particular diagnosis, he said, except to say he is a Vietnam veteran suffering from a service-related head injury, living on full veteran's disability and Social Security.
Rueckert was "restored to competency" under his treatment and monitoring at the state hospital, that progress aired in early February before 2nd District Judge Mark DeCaria.
DeCaria at the sentencing hearing last week gave Rueckert a prison sentence of up to five years, suspended in favor of three years' probation. He also gave him credit for time served of 250-plus days in custody at the jail and the mental hospital.
Retallick said the Wahlen veterans home at the time said a bed would likely become available within two weeks. The main thing Rueckert's residency there will provide is monitoring of his medications, Retallick said.
Rueckert's only prior in the state court's database is a 2009 simple assault conviction in the Ogden Justice Court when he was 62 years old. He was sentenced to a year on probation, contingent on careful monitoring of his medications, according to court records, which was to be coordinated by the U.S. Veteran's Administration and the court.