Man Gets 44 Months in Prison for Fire in Albany County GOP Office
A Laramie man has been sentenced 44 months in federal prison for breaking into and burning the Albany County Republican Party office in September, and a man claiming to be his brother was jailed for contempt after jeering the sentence.
Kellen Michael "Van Gogh" Sorber, 27, received the sentence Monday in federal court in Casper from U.S. District Court Judge Scott Skavdahl.
Skavdahl also ordered Sorber to pay $6,200 in restitution. Upon release from prison, Sorber will remain on supervised release for three years.
During Monday's sentencing hearing, a man who claimed to be Sorber's brother was arrested for criminal contempt after booing Skavdahl's sentence. The judge ordered him jailed for one day, and a U.S. Marshal handcuffed him and led him from the courtroom.
The man had earlier said something during the proceedings, to which the judge told him he can go outside on the steps of the courthouse and say whatever he wants. The man asked Skavdahl if he could speak, to which the judge said "no."
In January, Sorber pleaded guilty to one count of using fire to commit a felony. In exchange for his plea, the prosecution and defense agreed Sorber would spend three years, eight months in prison.
The maximum penalty could have been 20 years imprisonment for the crime formally known as malicious damage to property used in interstate commerce by means of fire.
Before Skavdahl handed down the sentence, federal public defender David Weiss said Sorber was a brilliant student but dropped out of high school and never earned his General Educational Development degree.
Sorber, Weiss added, was taken up by the political outrage of the moment and acted on the spur of the moment in "sheer stupidity" when he decided to break into the building not realizing it also was a residence. Fortunately, no one was injured during the incident, Weiss added.
"The real tragedy is a continued delay in getting a life started," he said.
Sorber declined to comment.
Skavdahl asked Sorber if his marijuana use has affected him.
Sorber responded it was "50-50," but it may have slowed his motivation.
The judge then handed down the sentence, with a recommendation that he serve his time at a prison in Wisconsin so he can earn a college degree. Skavdahl also required him to get a mental health evaluation, cognitive behavioral analysis and substance abuse treatment.
The case began at 3:25 a.m. Sept. 6, at the GOP headquarters, 214 E. Ivinson Ave., when the Laramie Fire Department responded to a call about a fire and extinguished it.
Investigators found two pieces of a cinderblock inside and a third piece on a trash container in the alley, a partially consumed cigarette, the burnt remains of a folding camping-style chair, and burnt remnants of a soft drink can box, according to the criminal complaint.
The ATF laboratory was able to determine a dominant DNA profile.
Surveillance video also was able to help investigators identify a person of interest: Sorber.
They began watching Sorber, and one was able to contact him and surreptitiously obtain DNA from a beer can he had. That DNA evidence was consistent with that found on the cigarette and the three pieces of cinderblock.
An investigator determined that Sorber had his cell phone within one-tenth of a mile from a cell tower next to a cafe near the GOP headquarters.
On Oct. 16, law enforcement officers executed a search warrant and obtained DNA directly from Sorber.
U.S. Attorney Mark Klaassen filed the criminal complaint on Oct. 23.
Sorber then went missing, but was apprehended two days later and has been in custody since.