Benjamin Gilmore sentenced to 8 years in $10 million Fort Collins arson fire that damaged condos

FORT COLLINS, Colo. - A man found guilty of arson, burglary and criminal mischief in a $10 million fire in Old Town Fort Collins was sentenced to 8 years in prison on Thursday.

The judge also sentenced Benjamin Gilmore to 8 years in prison for criminal mischief and 6 years for burglary -- sentences to be served concurrently.

The defense asked for a stay of sentence -- that Gilmore be free on bond -- pending an appeal, but prosecutors argued that Gilmore is a threat to the community and should not be free while he awaits an appeal.

The judge denied the defense's request, and Gilmore was taken away in handcuffs, crying.

Just before he was taken away, he was allowed to hug his wife and 9-month-old son one last time.

His wife had pleaded to the judge for mercy, moments earlier.

"Please don't take my husband from our family," Rebekah Gilmore said in court.

Gilmore's defense team and the protestors who picketed outside the Larimer County Justice Center Thursday morning compare Gilmore to Tim Masters, who was wrongly convicted and released after spending 10 years in prison.

"I believe the truth will prevail and we will see justice some day -- maybe not in this court, but maybe in the court of appeals," Gilmore said at his sentencing.

After the sentence was handed down, many of Gilmore's supporters put their head in their hands and someone in the packed courtroom muttered that the situation was a "travesty."

Gilmore was led away in handcuffs as someone yelled, "We love you, Ben!"

The Gilmore case attracted national attention because he supported demonstrations at an Occupy Wall Street encampment a block away from where the fire was started. Occupy activists were protesting against economic inequality and government policies favoring the wealthy.

The 2011 fire caused an estimated $10 million damage to a four-story apartment complex that was under construction and the occupied Penny Flats condominium and retail building next door.

Gilmore's first trial ended in a hung jury in September 2012.

But another jury convicted the 31-year-old of arson, burglary and criminal mischief last month.

Gilmore has maintained his innocence. He claims that a transient man set the fire.

He has many ardent supporters who believe him and vow to keep fighting to clear his name.

However, the DA in court on Thursday played a tape in which Gilmore said, "The intention was never to hurt anybody."

Gilmore has no previous criminal history but the judge noted that the seriousness of the crime merited the prison sentence. Prosecutors say the arson fire threatened the lives of 21 residents of the condo complex.

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