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Teen to serve one year for dorm fire

MOORHEAD - A 19-year-old with a history of legal scrapes was sentenced to a year in jail Monday for starting a dormitory fire in December.

"If this doesn't get your attention, I don't know what will," Clay County District Court Judge Lisa Borgen told Christopher Lee Miller of Moorhead as she handed down a sentence that included stayed prison time.

Miller earlier pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree arson.

His attorney, Brian Toay, said the fire at Minnesota State University Moorhead was a prank and his client never intended to cause harm.

According to court records, Miller was on his way out of the dormitory when he held his lighter to cotton balls on a Christmas decoration hanging on a dorm room door.

"Wouldn't it be funny if I started this on fire?" he is quoted in court documents.

Miller fled after trying to pat out the fire with his hands.

The female resident of the dorm room, who did not know Miller, extinguished the fire with water.

In giving Miller a year in jail, Borgen stayed a four-year prison sentence on condition Miller successfully complete probation, which could extend to 20 years.

"I do believe you are ashamed of what you did," Borgen told Miller, adding that his conduct was so reckless, "you could have burned down the dorm."

Miller, who Borgen said has a record for things such as minor consuming and fleeing a peace officer, was ordered to pay fines and fees totaling more than $1,000 and restitution of more than $900.