Sparkman sentencing delayed for third time

Monday, July 10, 2006

The sentencing for an automobile dealer convicted of burning down his business for the insurance money was pushed back for the third time.

Greg Sparkman was found guilty Oct. 14 on 15 felony counts stemming from a December 2000 fire at West Park Motors Inc.

He was originally scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 24, but that date was pushed back at the request of both the federal prosecutor's office and Sparkman's attorney, Richard Sindel.

Sentencing was then scheduled by U.S. District Judge Henry Autrey for April 11, but was later reset to Tuesday.

On Thursday, the court sent word to the parties in the case that due to a conflict, Sparkman's sentencing was rescheduled a third time to Sept. 21, according to assistant federal prosecutor Mike Price.

Several other cases scheduled for this week before Autrey were also reset, he said.

According to a court clerk, this week's hearings conflicted with the judge's personal schedule.

Price would not discuss the specific reasons for the first two delays, saying they dealt with motions under seal.

"It's a shame it had to be so far away," Sindel said in a telephone interview of the new sentencing date.

Sindel declined to comment further on the rescheduling other than to say it has been difficult for Sparkman's family and he would look into the matter.

Arson conviction

Sparkman was convicted of arson, using fire to commit fraud and 13 counts of mail fraud based on claims filed for insurance payments.

He faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in federal prison and a maximum of 95 years imprisonment.

On the night of the fire, two vehicles were taken from the West Park Motors lot and set ablaze along an isolated stretch of South Sprigg Street, destroying the offices of the auto business.

The prosecutor's key witness, Scott Smith, a former Sparkman employee, testified at trial that he accompanied Sparkman when the blazes were set.

Supporters of Sparkman accused Smith of lying to get a deal from prosecutors. Smith, who testified while incarcerated for unrelated drug charges, was released early from prison in exchange for his testimony.

Until his sentencing is imposed, Sparkman is being held at a local federal facility, and the time he serves there will be credited towards his prison sentence, Price said.

kmorrison@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 127

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