Man with history of reckless burning gets jail time for attempted arson

In an online hearing before Grand County Judge Mary Hoak on Thursday, Christopher Linsmayer, 68, middle right, was sentenced to 10 days of jail, two years of supervised probation and 80 hours of community service for two counts of attempted arson.
Grand County Court WebEx screenshot

On Thursday, a Grand County District Court judge sentenced a man with a history of burning slash piles on his property to 10 days in jail.

Judge Mary Hoak sentenced Christopher Linsmayer, 68, on one count of felony attempted arson and one count of misdemeanor attempted arson, giving him the jail time, along with two years unsupervised probation and 80 hours of community service.

“What is most compelling to the court here is … that there was a Stage 2 fire ban. There was to be no open burning and Mr. Linsmayer violated that ban,” Hoak said. “I think the shock of jail may well help in this situation.”

Linsmayer is the husband of Denver District Attorney Beth McCann. A statement from McCann on Thursday says that Linsmayer and his family acknowledge the distress his actions put on the community.

“The family deeply regrets and apologizes for the tremendous stress, anger and hurt his actions have caused and hope today’s ruling gives the community members some peace,” the statement reads. “He acknowledges that he exercised extremely poor judgment and has accepted responsibility by pleading guilty to his actions that October day. He hopes to demonstrate his remorse by performing useful public service to the community.”

Linsmayer was charged with 12 counts of felony arson and 12 counts of misdemeanor arson for having a dozen slash piles on his property with four actively burning on Oct. 27, 2020, an incident that sparked an emergency response to his home in the Gorewood neighborhood outside Kremmling.

At the time, Grand County was under a Stage 2 fire ban with the East Troublesome and Williams Fork fires smoldering under a fresh blanket of snow. Linsmayer was not on his property when emergency crews responded, and unable to get a truck through the snow, firefighters had to use surrounding snow to extinguish the flames.

In addition to jail time, Hoak signed an injunction that prohibits Linsmayer from having any kind of fire on his property in perpetuity, with the exception of a contained barbecue grill.

One of the slash piles burning on Christopher Linsmayer's property on Oct. 27, 2020 that caused Kremmling Fire and Grand County Sheriff's Office to respond.
Courtesy Henry Meier

Linsmayer will have to report to the Grand County Jail on Nov. 1 to start serving his sentence. Aside from court costs, Hoak didn’t impose additional fines.

Though Linsmayer’s plea deal allowed for up to 90 days incarceration, Hoak noted that Linsmayer has generally been a law-abiding citizen aside from his illegal burning, so she didn’t believe the maximum jail time would have any additional impact on him.

In a statement to the court, Linsmayer apologized for his actions and to his neighbors for the distress he has caused.

“I’m profoundly sorry and apologetic that my ill thought out and impulsive actions last fall caused my neighbors and the Grand County community such fear, stress and concern,” Linsmayer said. “I would never have left the property if I didn’t believe the fires were fully extinguished … I would never cause any harm to my property and certainly not to my neighbors.”

Several of Linsmayer’s neighbors gave statements asking the court for the harshest penalties allowed under the plea agreement, noting that previous consequences have not been enough to curb Linsmayer’s illegal burning.

He was fined for violating the county’s fire ban in 2019 and linked to the 2016 Gore Ridge Fire, a 10-acre wildfire that caused more than $100,000 in damage, as well as received a citation from the Grand County Sheriff’s Office in 2016.

Other inappropriate burns were reported to the sheriff’s office twice in 2017, but Linsmayer wasn’t cited.

“Up to now, the law has appeared to not apply to him,” neighbor Laurie Pope told the court. “The lack of serious consequences up to this point have allowed him to become bold in his fire setting.”

However, Linsmayer’s attorney Jack DiCola argued that Linsmayer was only conducting fire mitigation on his property and that Linsmayer tried to ensure the fires were out before he left.

“Apparently, on (Oct. 27), the fires flared up,” DiCola said. “(Linsmayer) was so upset that this had happened … This is not a case where you need to send a message. Mr. Linsmayer made a mistake.”

A psychologist that met with Linsmayer in the past also spoke to his behavior, saying Linsmayer takes the most recent charges more seriously than previous incidents and has expressed deep regret for his actions.

“I think the difference today is he understands the significance of how he ignored the potential risks of his behavior,” Dr. Spencer Friedman said. “He had an overgeneralized belief that he could manage and was effectively managing (the fires) … Now, he can no longer take for granted any behavior of his.”

Hoak said she shared the Gorewood residents’ concerns about whether Linsmayer would behave differently following the outcome of this case, but the judge added that Linsmayer has sought treatment and is prohibited from having fires. Still, Hoak expressed her position that it’s important there are consequences.

Under Linsmayer’s plea agreement, he can have the charges dismissed after Oct. 14, 2023 through a deferred judgment as long as he completes all of the terms of the plea and doesn’t commit any new crimes. If Linsmayer doesn’t complete the terms of his agreement, he risks one to three years in prison.

Following the sentencing, 14th Judicial District Attorney Matt Karzen said he felt the outcome was appropriate for the situation.

“I thought Judge Hoak’s assessment and decision was spot on,” Karzen said. “This was more about the felony-level plea, the exposure to jail time and the injunction.”

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