Legal Issue Spurs New Plea In Bowling Alley Arson
BRIDGETON, N.J. (AP) — The former owner of a southern New Jersey bowling alley who orchestrated an arson fire that destroyed a rival alley four years ago has entered a revised guilty plea.
Steven Smink of Philadelphia had pleaded guilty earlier this month to a first-degree charge of arson for hire (see related story), just days before he was to stand trial on charges stemming from the fire that destroyed Loyle Lanes in Vineland.
But Cumberland County prosecutors had to vacate that plea deal after realizing the 12-year sentence it called for was not subject to a state law that requires defendants serve at least 85 percent of their term before becoming eligible for parole. They said Smink could have been eligible for release after serving just three years.
Prosecutors reworked the deal and Smink pleaded guilty Friday to second-degree charges of arson for hire and conspiracy. He now faces a 10-year sentence on the arson for hire charge, which is subject to the state law, followed by a consecutive five-year sentence for the conspiracy count.
His sentencing is scheduled for April 4.
Smink, who ran the Pike Lanes Family Fun Center in Deerfield, admitted he bought the gasoline and kerosene cans, accelerants and drill used in the torching of the Vineland facility.
Two other Philadelphia residents accused of starting the fire have both pleaded guilty. One was sentenced to two years in juvenile detention, while the other faces a 10-year state prison term when he’s sentenced later this year.
The owners of Loyle Lanes initially planned to rebuild after the fire, but decided not to because they lacked the funds needed for the extensive project.
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