Would-be firefighter DeGuara lands in jailSLAYTON — A man once convicted of impersonating a firefighter in California and accused of being in possession of stolen firefighting equipment in Avoca was sentenced to a year in jail Monday in Murray County District Court after pleading guilty last month to receiving stolen property.
By: Justine Wettschreck, Worthington Daily Globe
SLAYTON — A man once convicted of impersonating a firefighter in California and accused of being in possession of stolen firefighting equipment in Avoca was sentenced to a year in jail Monday in Murray County District Court after pleading guilty last month to receiving stolen property. In the courtroom were most of the Avoca Fire and Rescue members and a variety of law enforcement officials from several departments.
“I can’t find any reason to grant you leniency,” said Judge David Christensen after listening to an accounting of Joshua DeGuara’s rap sheet and his request for a light sentence.
DeGuara was charged in November 2008 with two counts of receiving stolen property. While living in a rental house in Avoca, he had been granted probationary status to Avoca Fire and Rescue Department after telling the department officers he was a certified fire fighter in the state of California.
After being charged with stealing a cell phone cover in Slayton, Avoca officers began to question his integrity and he was eventually voted off the department. When a search warrant was executed at his home on an unrelated matter, a variety of Avoca’s firefighting equipment was discovered by a deputy.
Several weeks later, after the department had inventories their equipment, a complete set of turnout gear was discovered in the trunk of DeGuara’s roommate’s car. The roommate told authorities DeGuara had asked him to hold onto it.
“I have five files sitting in front of me,” Christensen told DeGuara Monday. “You have a long record of grand theft, burglary, impersonating a fireman, dangerous drugs and more theft, and now here we have a variety of offenses, once again involving a fire department. Frankly, there is no reason to be lenient.”
Avoca’s fire chief had delivered an impact statement outlining how the thefts from the small department had not only cost the department equipment that was still missing, but had cost time that could have been used for training. It had also cost the department the trust of the community, the chief said.
Murray County Attorney Paul Malone had spoken earlier, pointing out DeGuara’s extensive criminal history in California and the excuses DeGuara had given for each one. He had apparently blamed a friend on a theft charge, blamed medication for impersonating a firefighter and said the cops were after him when he was busted for another crime.
In Murray County, he blamed disorderly conduct on his wife, blamed the cell phone cover theft on a small child and tried to say he forgot to bring Avoca’s equipment home after a fire.
“There is a lack of acknowledgement or responsibility for any actions he has engaged in,” Malone stated, adding a list of jobs DeGuara had lost because of missed work. “And here we are today with his sentencing at 10 a.m. and he showed up late.”
Malone asked for the maximum sentence allowed.
The pre-sentence investigation recommended 270 days with the possibility of electronic home monitoring, which defense attorney Stephen Ferrazzano stated was excessive.
“I don’t think this warrants that much,” Ferrazzano said, adding that he felt 90 days was appropriate with electronic home monitoring.
“Mr. Malone indicated a lack of responsibility, but I don’t see that,” Ferrazzano stated. “He pleaded guilty and acknowledged his crimes.”
Ferrazzano asked that if a jail sentence was to be executed, DeGuara be allowed to wait until May 29 to report to jail, because he wanted to see his daughter graduate from kindergarten.
When Christensen asked DeGuara if he had anything to say, DeGuara stated he did take responsibility for his actions.
“I realize I made a mistake and I have learned from it,” he said, then went on the blame the mistake on his wife, their current divorce and circumstances. “I’m trying to do what I can to get my life back on track.”
He stated he had a job opportunity in another county and a letter of recommendation, then said he was his daughters’ only living parent and they needed him.
“I regret what I did,” he said. “It was stupid and wrong.”
Christensen sentenced DeGuara to 15 months in prison, stayed on the condition he serve a year in the county jail, attend anger management classes, abstain from alcohol and drugs and serve five years probation. He can serve work release if eligible, the judge added.
The judge denied the request for a waiting period and said DeGuara was to be put in custody immediately following the hearing.
DeGuara was also sentenced on two other files, but the 90 day sentences will be served concurrently with the one-year sentence, as will two probation violation sentences.
“Your Honor, what about the possibility of electric home monitoring?” Ferrazzano asked.
“No,” Christensen replied.