ALLISON — A Clarksville man apologized for setting fire to the town’s City Hall and damaging a city-owned concession stand as he was sentenced to probation Monday.
“I’d just like to apologize to the city of Clarksville, especially the mayor, Val Swinton. I just had a really bad mental health incident that day, and I’m seeking help,” Nicolas James Wessels, 24, told the court.
Wessels suffers from schizophreniform disorder and has been taking medication since he was a child. His attorney, Mark Milder, said at the time of the July fire Wessels had quit taking the medication because of side effects. He said Wessels also was dealing with the death of his grandmother.
CLARKSVILLE – City officials are exploring their options after a weekend fire gutted City Hall.
“There was no animus towards the city in this. ... It was really just a random victim of his mental health at that time,” Milder said.
He said they had decided against using his mental health as a defense against the charges.
“He is willing to take responsibility for his actions and knew what he was doing that day but just wasn’t thinking in a clear state of mind,” Milder said.
Since his arrest, Wessels has been complying with treatment and taking his medication, Milder said.
Authorities said Wessels kicked open the door to the concession stand on Main Street and caused more than $1,000 damage and then walked to City Hall, which was closed July 22, and set a fire.
Judge Christopher Foy formalized a plea agreement to second-degree arson and sentenced Wessels to three to five years of supervised probation with substance abuse and mental health treatment.
The sentence will run consecutive to a probation violation in an earlier misdemeanor marijuana charge where he had been granted a deferred judgment.
Restitution will be determined at a later date. Butler County Attorney Gregory Lievens said they city has already received about $50,000 from its insurance carrier.
The court also will revisit a restraining order that keeps Wessels at least 300 feet from city offices and employees. Milder said the provision is an obstacle for Wessels, who lives on the same street as the torched City Hall in the city of 1,400 people.
“Anytime they go to Casey’s or go downtown, they have to take a roundabout trip around town,” said Milder, who asked to have the condition dismissed.
Lievens said he wanted to consult with city officials before making a recommendation on the restraining order.
The blaze did extensive damage, and city officials are planning to construct a new building but are currently housed in a mobile office.