COLORADO SPRINGS – The woman who started the Hayman Fire, Colorado’s largest-ever wildfire, had her sentence extended Wednesday. Terry Barton, a former U.S. Forest Service employee caused the fire back in 2002 when she burned a letter from an estranged husband. It happened during a fire ban. Her sentence was scheduled for completion this year. The hearing Wednesday considered whether her probation should end.
She spent numerous years behind bars, then for the past ten years, she has been on probation making restitution payments. She owes $42 million. Her monthly payments are based on ability to pay. Right out of prison she paid $50 a month. Her latest payments are $150 a month.
Barton’s defense argued she has never missed a payment and that she has done everything ordered by the justice system. On the stand Barton testified of difficulty making any kind of substantial money. She says she does cleaning for AirBNB properties and has some personal training clients. With the court-ordered payments and other basic living expenses she said, “We’re always in the hole.”
Prosecutors asked the judge to extend the probation and payments. They say she could work more hours and do more toward restitution. Instead, she tends her grandchildren for free while her daughter works.
Judge William Bain referred to the free babysitting when he extended her probation. “At the end of the day the legal requirement trumps any moral requirement [to family]. Does this mean Miss Barton may end up spending the rest of her life paying restitution–yes, it in all likelihood it means Miss Barton is going to spend the rest of her life paying for restitution.”
Along with extending the probation, Judge Bain ordered Barton to get a forty hour a week job. The probation will no longer be supervised by a parole officer. It is in part so money toward legal fees can instead go toward to restitution.
The interest on the $42 million is rising faster than Barton can pay. What she owes is now around $42.5 million.