Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

Jacob Christenson, age 11, will have a tough time finding a jury of his peers in arson case

Where there's smoke, there's ire.

Parker's Jacob Christenson has been charged with second-degree arson that caused upwards of $195,000 in damages; he'll go on trial in Arapahoe County in February. But it will be tough to find a jury of his peers: Jacob is ten.

Alan Prendergast, who first reported Jacob Christenson's story in this space on Friday, noted how the ten-year-old and a friend were playing outside, found a lighter, lit a piece of paper on fire and tossed it in some bushes -- which caught fire. "It was a bad mistake, but second-degree arson?" Tina Christenson, Jacob's mom, asked Prendergast. "That's pretty major."

Since the story broke, it's fueled a report on 9News, a piece in the Denver Post and, this morning, considerable discussion on KHOW.

But the best comment so far may be one posted after Alan's original story:

Wasn't it in Colorado that the 171 homes got burned down this past summer and the state decided to not charge the people that caused the damage becuase it was deemed an accident? This prosecutor would like us to believe that a 10-year-old kid knew that this could have been the outcome of throwing the paper into those bushes. If so, what about the two grownups who started the fire that destroyed so many homes this past summer? No charges filed because one of them was an ex-firefighter or something like that. WOW...I can only hope that we come to our senses and not ruin this kid's life. Good luck, Jacob.

The commenter is referring to the Fourmile Canyon fire this past September, which burned 6,200 acres and 169 structures, including that of the man whose smoldering slash pit started the blaze. He was not charged -- but then, the Boulder County District Attorney made that call, not Arapahoe County DA Carol Chambers.

More from our Calhoun: Wake-Up Call archive: "El Paso County Jail's postcard-only policy is returned to sender."

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun