This week, Nathaniel Sommer and his son, Aaron, each were sentenced to probation in connection with the fire they started that destroyed the Evergreen Home for Adults in Spring Valley on March 23, 2021. Nathaniel Sommer, 72, pleaded guilty to two felony counts of second-degreemanslaughter, one for fire Lieut. Jared Lloyd and one for resident Oliver Hueston on April 20 of this year. Aaron Sommer, 29, pleaded guilty to second-degree reckless endangerment, a misdemeanor.
Nathaniel Sommer was sentenced to five years of probation while his son was sentenced to three years of probation. District Attorney Thomas Walsh, keenly aware that the plea deal accepted by the Sommers has enraged many members of a community still mourning the tragic incident, released a statement highlighting the “several mitigating factors” uncovered by his departments investigation “that would prove challenging for the prosecution at trial.”
Speaking shortly after the sentencing on Wednesday, Walsh characterized the case as unprecedented. “First, I wish to express my condolences to the families of Oliver Hueston and Jared Lloyd. The loss you’ve endured is irreplaceable, and its impact on our community cannot be over- stated,” began Walsh.
“This was a first-of-its-kind case in the State of New York. The reckless conduct that both defendants engaged in, and ultimately admitted to, has no model, no previous case law, no true analogy; it is precedent setting. No one has been convicted, let alone arrested and prosecuted, for utilizing a torch and hot coals for a ritual religious cleaning in the manner the defendants chose that evening.
“I urge those following this case closely to read the investigate reporters my office made public three months ago,which were compiled after a thorough and impartial investigation by agencies of the State of New York. The findings paint a complex, nuanced picture, and I firmly believe that a resolution before trial was the most responsible route under
“Nevertheless, it was undeniable, in my office’s view, that had the defendants not acted recklessly that evening, the tragic events would never have unfolded the way they did. When considering the appropriate action in this case, my office chose to accept a plea only under the condition that at least one of these defendants would fully acknowledge, in open court, the recklessness that led to the tragic deaths of Jared Lloyd and Oliver Hueston.
“As a result, this was the first time a case of this nature has led to a manslaughter plea. This plea will likely serve as a foundation for any civil litigation the families might pursue.”
Rockland County Executive Ed Day said he disagrees with the sentences and expressed outrage that the Sommerswere offered a plea that included no jail time “for their reckless and felonious behavior.”
The friends and family of Jarred Lloyd expressed similar frustration at Wednesday’s ruling by Judge Kevin Russo. Fellow volunteer fighter John Kapral spoke in court stating “these people are getting a slap on the wrist while others must grieve for the rest of their lives. This case was an absolute joke,” according to Pix 11.
Lloyd’s mother, Sabrail Davenport has stated that she is “heartbroken” by the ruling, and had previously filled legal action against the village of Spring Valley accusing a slew of officials and employees of the Evergreen Court Home for Adults of knowingly allowing conditions that led to the disaster.
When given the chance to speak, Aaron Sommer declined.
His father, Nathaniel Sommer, expressed remorse for causing the fire. “I tried my whole life to help people and I did the exact opposite here. I have hurt so many people, and I feel terrible for them,” said the Rabbi.