Original article no longer available
Asbury Park Press (Neptune, NJ)
July 29, 2000
Author: DAVID P. WILLIS/STAFF WRITER
TOMS RIVER – A former Jackson volunteer fire chief was sentenced to four years in prison yesterday for setting a fire at an abandoned building in December 1998. One-time Cassville Fire Company Chief Thomas Singer told Superior Court Judge Edward J. Turnbach he was sorry.
“I would just like to express my sorrow and apologize for the actions that occurred,” Singer said.
Singer pleaded guilty to aggravated arson for setting the fire at an abandoned building off Don Connor Boulevard owned by the state Division of Forestry on Dec. 14, 1998. Singer also pleaded guilty to official misconduct because his role as a fire chief held him to a higher standard for protecting the public.
The former fire chief could have been sentenced to a 10-year prison term because both are second degree crimes. But Singer does not have a prior criminal record so Turnbach said he treated them as third-degree crimes.
Singer admitted to the offenses in late April, cutting his trial short.
During the trial, Singer’s lawyer Robert F. Dato, said Singer set the fires but was “out of control” that day because of a bipolar disorder, his use of the prescription drug Prozac and his consumption of three or four beers.
But yesterday, Supervising Assistant Ocean County Prosecutor Michel A. Paulhus dismissed that explanation. “Mr. Singer himself and not any condition that he had is responsible,” Paulhus said.
At the time of his guilty plea, Singer said he was dealing with anger particularly over his family situation, which he attributed to stress resulting from he and his wife Donna’s multi-year struggle to have a baby.
The couple ultimately had two children, a girl and a boy, but Singer said he considered it a hardship to care for his child during the times his wife worked and he was off.