LARGO — Jack Ault, the 15-year-old boy who helped set fire to the home of his 11-year-old girlfriend's mother, was sentenced to a "moderate risk" juvenile program Monday afternoon.
That means he could spend nine months to two and a half years in a juvenile facility, his mother, Shannon Mastrangelo, said while leaving the court.
"I'm really happy," she said, compared to the adult prison sentence or longer juvenile sentence he might have faced.
She maintains the 11-year-old girl was the person mainly responsible for the fire. The girl has a tentative trial date of March 24.
The victim in the fire, Nancy Broadhead, did not speak in court on Monday, although she had previously made it clear she wanted the opportunity to attend. Her attorney said the main reason she came was to endorse the arrangement that led to the juvenile sanctions for Ault.
No one in the courtroom discussed the reasoning behind placing Ault in a "moderate risk" juvenile program, rather than a "maximum risk" program that likely would have kept him locked up for a longer period.
The juvenile program is considered "performance based," meaning youths can be released earlier, or locked up longer, based on how well they do at meeting their educational and other goals.
Assistant Public Defender Dwight Wolfe said he believes Ault will do well in the program, because he has good family support from his mother and grandmother and that "Jack seems very committed to getting his life straightened out."
Ault and the 11-year-old girl were arrested after the Dec. 29 incident in which Broadhead woke up to discover her Clearwater home had been set on fire. Her first instinct was to call out for her daughter's safety.
Ault pleaded guilty in juvenile court this month to five charges, including attempted murder, arson and grand theft auto. He also pleaded guilty to two charges that were unrelated to the fire.
— Curtis Krueger can be reached at (727) 893-8232 or firstname.lastname@example.org.