Madera County District Attorney David Linn announced Tuesday afternoon that Kenneth Jackson, convicted on 21 counts of arson in 2013, was denied parole and will remain in jail.
In August of 2014, Jackson and his wife, Allison Waterman, were found guilty of arson for their involvement in a rash of at least 31 fires between June 8-25 in 2013. Jackson was convicted of 21 counts of arson and sentenced to 30 years and eight months in prison.
Under Proposition 57, passed by California voters last year, nonviolent felons like Jackson and Waterman become eligible for early release. For Jackson, if his parole had been approved, he would have been released after serving less than four years.
Waterman was convicted of six counts of arson to wildlands, and sentenced to 10 years, eight months behind bars.
When originally in court, the two weren’t convicted of arson causing injury or burning a residence, which would have made them violent offenders and thus ineligible for early release. Instead, they were convicted of nonviolent felony arson.
Linn sent a letter opposing Jackson’s potential release, alongside 74 additional letters he collected from victims and community leaders to the Board of Parole Hearings.
In the board’s decision, dated Aug. 17, they wrote that “Jackson’s commitment offenses held an entire community in fear and victimized a multitude of citizens for weeks on end. Jackson also demonstrated violence when he shoved the arresting officer in an attempt to escape capture ... based on the foregoing, it is adjudged that Jackson poses an unreasonable risk of violence to the community. Accordingly, release is denied.”
Linn said Madera County was one of the few to obtain a denial on a potential release under Proposition 57.
“Mr. Jackson was not prosecuted in an appropriate manner, by my predecessors, to obtain conviction on all the crimes he committed,” Linn said in a release. “Proposition 57, a previously unwritten law, was flawed since its inception and should never apply to a criminal such as Mr. Jackson.”
Officials estimated the fires that Jackson and Waterman lit caused around $1 million in damages.
“We fought for justice to the end,” Linn said. “We fought to keep a dangerous criminal in prison and with hard work from my District Attorney’s Office, and tremendous support from the good citizens of Yosemite Lakes Park and the people of Madera County, justice has prevailed.”
Jackson could be up for potential release next year. He will remain in Solano State Prison.
Editor’s note: Sally Moreno, who is challenging Linn for the seat of Madera County District Attorney in the June 8, 2018 primary, lead prosecution of Jackson and Waterman under Michael Keitz, who Linn defeated in November of 2014. She currently works as a deputy district attorney in Fresno County.