Former Savannah Fire Captain Barry Arnold sentenced to 15 years, 2 to serve

Former Savannah Fire Captain Barry Arnold sentenced to 15 years, 2 to serve
(Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC)

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - The final witness in the sentencing phase for former Savannah Fire Captain Barry Arnold took the stand on Monday morning.

After the final witness, the judge sentenced Arnold under the First Offender Act. He was sentenced to 15 years with two years to serve in prison, eight years of probation and five years suspended.

Arnold entered a guilty plea deal on aggravated assault and possession of firearm charges in Chatham County Superior Court last week. This after a 2015 incident at a Southside Applebee's. Prosecutors say Arnold pointed his gun at two people during an altercation.

In the closing arguments, Defense Attorney Tom Withers didn't sugarcoat his client's actions on the night of the crime, calling them despicable and fueled by alcohol. Withers did ask Judge Penny Haas Freesemann to consider before sentencing Arnold's service as a firefighter and to not judge his client on what he considers the worst moment of his life.

The defense pointed to Arnold's alcoholism and the treatment he's currently receiving. The prosecution made the argument that voluntary intoxication is not a defense, and not even focusing on all the racial slurs Arnold used towards the black couple that night, he still pointed his gun at them.

"It's not actually against the law to be a bigot, and it's not against the law to be an alcoholic, but what is against the law is to take a gun, point it at another human being, and put them in fear," said Judge Freesemann.

Judge Freesemann also praised Marquist Curtis' composure throughout the process, even saying Arnold could look up to him as a role model.

"Mr. Curtis was amazing. He was honest, he was earnest, he was generous, he was gracious. He had clearly overcome all of the bad decisions he had made in his life, and he is somebody that you could actually look up to," said Judge Freesemann.

Outside the courthouse, WTOC asked Curtis what he thought about the judge's comments.

"After doing prison time, you learn a lot. So, I mean, like I said, I don't wish that on anybody. I don't wish jail on anybody. I mean, I can only speak how I feel, you know? That came from the heart," sadi Curtis.

Savannah Attorney Will Claiborne is representing the victims from the civil aspect and has been closely following the criminal proceedings. Claiborne says Arnold's guilty plea could have an effect on the civil proceedings.

"When someone pleads guilty and testifies at their plea hearing, they are bound by those admissions, so the things that Mr. Arnold testified to, the admissions that he made can certainly be used in a civil case, and would be," Claiborne said. "The assistant district attorney did a great job presenting the case, and moving things forward. And this is the beginning of justice for Marquist and Amber. A punishment for Barry Arnold is appropriate. But at this point, nothing has been done to address the harm that Marquist and Amber felt."

During his testimony, Curtis did say that medical care for an injury he received during a scuffle with Arnold inside the restaurant has cost him about $30,000.

Claiborne told WTOC last week that they will try to resolve any issues without filing a suit, but will if necessary.

Following his time in prison, Arnold will then be on probation for eight years. If any of the terms of that probation are violated, Arnold could face additional jail time.

Once Arnold finishes his sentence, he will not have a conviction and the record of this case will be sealed from his official criminal history due to the First Offender Act. In Georgia, the intent of the law is to give people a chance to learn from their mistake and move on with their lives without the burden of a conviction.

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