- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 5, 2014

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - A former fire chief from a northeastern Minnesota community awaiting sentencing for arson has been diagnosed as a pyromaniac, according to a federal prosecutor.

Ryan Scharber, 30, resigned as fire chief of Babbitt in St. Louis County in December 2012. He later pleaded guilty to setting a fire in the Superior National Forest and another at a resort in Babbitt.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Dunne argued in a sentencing recommendation filed in federal court Tuesday that Scharber should be sent to prison for five years. Dunne disputed Scharber’s contention that he set the fires “to get out of the house for a few hours to get relief from his newborn child’s acid reflux.” The prosecutor said Scharber never offered that excuse during an interview with investigators in which he eventually confessed.

“The psychiatrist at the Range Mental Health Center diagnosed the defendant with pyromania,” Dunne wrote. “The real reason behind the defendant’s criminal conduct in this case was that diagnosis.”

Defense attorney Joseph Tamburino is recommending a lesser sentence because Scharber has been willing to seek therapy and has cooperated with investigators, according to the Star Tribune (https://strib.mn/1e1P0ql ). Tamburino also said the government has not shown that Scharber was malicious in his intent because he set “small fires in small unpopulated areas,” Tamburino said.

“He never intended that the fires destroy large amounts of property or endanger the lives or well-being of anyone in the community,” Tamburino said. Scharber has no criminal history, he added.

Sentencing is scheduled April 10 in Duluth.

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Information from: Star Tribune, https://www.startribune.com

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