FORT COLLINS, Colo. - Lawyers defending a man who impersonated a firefighter during the High Park Fire asked for mercy, but a judge decided Michael Maher needed to be held responsible for his actions.
Maher was sentenced Thursday to 42 days in jail, 150 hours of community service and 18 months of probation for impersonating a public servant and trespassing during that fire.
When Maher was arrested at the High Park Fire on June 18, 2012, four portable radios were found inside his truck, the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office said. One of the radios had allegedly been stolen from the Lower North Fork Fire, during which Maher also allegedly impersonated a firefighter.
During the High Park fire, Maher was working with Rist Canyon Firefighters. He wore a uniform and used stolen government license plates on his truck to get access behind the fire lines. Firefighters became suspicious of the 31 year old after the chief approached him asking for proper credentials, which he did not have. He was arrested later that night at a Laporte bar.
Maher was accompanied in court Thursday by his lawyers and his mother, who flew in from Connecticut. His defense argued he was ultimately just trying to help.
But the judge spoke about the photos of Maher posing inside the burn zone. He posed with equipment and even with the governor, and later posted the photos to Facebook.
The judge said, "The impact of Michael Maher's conduct I think is far greater than what he realizes, and I would say public perceived themselves as a victim not just people behind the fire lines."
After the sentencing, Maher's attorney David Beller sent 7NEWS this statement:
"From the very beginning, Mike Maher admitted that he acted foolishly and should never have been in the fire zone. But, also from the beginning, it has been clear he only meant to help in the firefighting effort and never meant to cause anyone harm, stress, or to diminish the heroism of those placing their lives in danger to help others. The fact that he did so is devastating to him.
"Mike is trained in firefighting, with an associates degree in the field. He is also a graduate of the fire academy and has earned countless certifications in wild land fire fighting.
"He is at peace with the resolution and is hopeful that the plea and sentence will bring closure and peace to all those impacted by the devastating High Park Fire and the entire Larimer County community."
Earlier this year, Maher was sentenced to 60 days in the Jefferson County Jail for the case during the Lower North Fork Fire.