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Rainey sentenced to 24 months

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Faced longer sentences for ill treatment of animals, arson

By Veronica Robinson

Christopher Rainer will spend the next two years in prison after agreeing to a plea deal in relation to multiple charges, including having set a shed fire that killed four kittens.

In May, According to a Great Falls Police Department report, Christopher Allen Rainey, 27, was arrested and charged with two counts of arson third degree and with violation of terms of probation, parole or other supervisory program. The report said Great Falls Police were notified by Chester County dispatch that there was a structure fire on Sunset Avenue. As the officer arrived on the scene, he observed smoke coming from a shed behind the house.

Once the small area that was on fire was extinguished, the officer observed several kittens lying in the area where the fire started. All of the kittens were dead except for one. The surviving kitten suffered burns to its head and back area. The report further stated that a female told the officer she and Rainey had been arguing and Rainey got upset and ripped the phone cord out of the wall so she could not call police. The woman said Rainey went out of the house and then started the first fire, the report said.

Rainey appeared in the Chester County Courthouse Friday morning in front of Judge Dan Hall. He was facing up to five years in prison for ill treatment of animals, up to 15 years on third degree arson charges, three years for use of a vehicle without permission and three years for injury to a courthouse or jail. The last two of those charges came from allegations that he took someone’s Cadillac without permission and that he knocked a head off a sprinkler at the Chester County Detention Center, causing a flood. Only 27, Rainey has already spent eight years in jail over two separate stints. His record includes threatening a public official, receiving stolen goods and multiple counts of grand larceny.

Sixth Circuit Public Defender Mike Lifsey said Rainey had been found competent to stand trial, but did say that he had a history of mental issues. Rainey, who was brought to the courtroom with his wrists cuffed to a chain around his waist, did speak on his own behalf. He said starting from the time he was seventh grade, he was given medications ranging from Zoloft, Paxil and Adderall.

Lifsey said Rainey’s situation is not unusual.

“Two of society’s biggest issues are drug addiction and mental illness that is not properly treated,” he said.

Lifsey said Rainey’s mental health issues began as early as elementary school. He said the situation worsened when he began using street drugs.

“Often times, people who are prescribed medication either don’t take it or can’t get it and they tend to self-medicate,” Lifsey said.

Rainey said if he took his medication regularly, he wouldn’t be getting in trouble and getting arrested. Lifsey said Rainey has “pretty good self-awareness of his problems.” Rainey then offered a lengthy plea for mercy.

“When I take my medication I’m different. But when I take it combined with heroin, crack and meth I do things that I don’t even remember doing until somebody tells me about it later. I know that is not an excuse,” he said.

Rainey said since he’s spent time in prison, his problems have gotten worse. He doesn’t have access to the medication he needs in jail, he said, and the medication he was given made him sick, so he stopped taking it. The positive that has come from his time in jail has been the opportunity it has given him to reflect on his life, he said.

“I’ve had a lot of time to think about the changes I need to make. I do have goals I plan to accomplish. I want to get a job and have the stability I’ve never had before. I want to be in my son’s life,” he said.

Rainey said he was asking for mercy from the court. The more time he has spent in jail, the more emotional he has become. He said he has “hurt himself” before as a result. It was mentioned at the outset of court that earlier in the week he had self-inflicted marks and scratches on his body.

Hall told Rainey that “everybody in the room wants you to get help.”

“But as you said, mental health is not excuse for criminal behavior,” Hall said.

Hall acknowledged that the criminal justice system does an imperfect job when it comes to dealing with inmates with mental health issues. Still, he said there would be a sentence for Rainey, though it would be measured “in months” and not the years he could have faced. He gave Rainey time served for two of his charges and gave him two, 24-month sentences on others, though the sentences will run concurrently.