Rolf Dieter Schmidt

Illinois man jailed for 2016 Saugatuck Twp. arson

By: 
Daniel Pepper, Staff Writer

An Illinois man who plead to arson and stalking charges after a Memorial Day 2016 incident has been sentenced to jail and probation.

Rolf Dieter Schmidt, 68, of Seneca, Ill., was sentenced to one year in the Allegan County Jail and five years probation Monday, March 25.

Allegan County Circuit Court Judge Roberts Kengis said, “The facts of the case are concerning...

“It’s perplexing how someone who is 68 years old could go through their life without any convictions and then go off the deep end, with this incident.”

Allegan County Prosecuting Attorney Myrene Koch argued for a prison sentence.

“The people see no reasonable basis to depart from the guidelines,” Koch said.

She said it was true Schmidt had no prior record but the victim impact statements.

“One victim said he does not feel safe unless the defendant is put into prison,” Koch said. “The other named victim in the case thinks that he is a pathological liar and needs psychological treatment.”

The guidelines in the case called for 19 to 38 months of incarceration.

Schmidt pleaded no contest in Sept. to one count of arson and one count of aggravated stalking. Another count of arson, another one of aggravated stalking and one count of malicious destruction of property were dropped at the sentence as part of an agreement with Allegan County prosecutors. 

While Schmidt didn’t directly admit to the crimes under the no contest plead, Kengis used police reports to determine he’d been responsible for a fire that damaged a barn on the property the victims were staying at on Lakeshore Drive in Saugatuck Township. The stalking included spray painting the words “We will get you” on the driveway of a victim’s residence and calling another victim’s employer in Texas and pretending to be an Illinois police officer to tell the employer the victim was drug dealer. The victims were Schmidt’s former girlfriend and her new boyfriend.

Another home was also attempted to be set on fire in the area, apparently by Schmidt attacking the wrong home.

Schmidt’s lawyer Bradley Johnson argued on the basis his client’s lack of a former criminal record.

“He’s also 68 years old and in failing health,” Johnson said.

His client, he said, had nodules on his lungs and a partially blocked artery that needed surgery. Johnson asked his client be allowed to take care of his medical problems and then serve his sentence.

“He’s the sole caregiver to his 75-year-old wife, who’s on disability,” Johnson said. “He’s a very valued employee at his job.”

Schmidt apologized to the court for not appearing at a prior hearing.

“I’m sorry about the inconvenience of not being here on the prior occasion,” he said. “I’d like to be able to take care of my prior health issues.”

Kengis said he was willing to use a jail sentence rather than a prison one because Schmidt’s lack of a prior record.

“I think you deserve a jail sentence,” he said. “I considered a prison sentence but you’ve not gotten into trouble before or on bond.”

He refused Schmidt’s request for a delayed sentence.

“You’ve submitted documents, but they say you have concerns,” Kengis said. “Not that you can’t serve a jail sentence. Many people in jail have health concerns.”

He also ordered Schmidt to pay $7,605.50 in restitution, though he gave Johnson the chance to challenge that number at a restitution hearing if he believed the number was in error.

Schmidt was given 21 days credit for time already served, ordered to be on tether for 180 days after release and ordered to have no contact with either victim.

Contact Dan Pepper at dpepper@allegannews.com or at (269) 673-5534.

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