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Man fined $ 12 million for arson at police station during George Floyd protests

A man was ordered to pay $ 12million (£ 8.6million) for his role in the fire at a Minneapolis police station during riots last May.

The fine imposed on Dylan Shakespeare Robinson, 23, who pleaded guilty to arson in December, will follow a four-year prison sentence.

Robinson’s attorney said “there is no realistic chance” his client could pay the fine.

Three other men who also pleaded guilty will be sentenced at a later date.

What happened to the police station?

In May of last year, thousands took to the streets of Minneapolis to protest the death of George Floyd in police custody.

Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin, who was later fired and convicted of murder, was filmed kneeling over Mr. Floyd’s neck area for more than nine minutes during his arrest.

Mr Floyd’s death and the protests that followed sparked weeks of unrest and the town has witnessed looting, arson and violence.

Among the protesters was Dylan Robinson of Brainerd, Minnesota, a town about 120 miles north of Minneapolis.

According to prosecutors, Robinson lit a Molotov cocktail that another person then threw at Minneapolis Third District headquarters – setting the building on fire.

Surveillance video inside the compound shows Robinson lighting an “incendiary device” held by another person and later setting fire inside the station near a stairwell on the first floor, officials said .

“Mr. Robinson has chosen to steer clear of the legal protest and instead engaged in violence and destruction,” Acting US Attorney Anders Folk said in a statement. The arson “put lives at risk and contributed to widespread lawlessness in Minneapolis.”

Robinson pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit arson. Three other men – Bryce Michael Williams, 27, Davon De-Andre Turner, 25, and Branden Michael Wolfe, 23 – have pleaded guilty to the same charge as part of a plea deal. They have not yet been sentenced.

Robinson’s attorney, who represents the four men, said the 23-year-old was unfairly singled out among thousands of others involved in riots last year.

“He bears the sorrow of the thousand other people who participated,” lawyer William Mauzy told The New York Times on Wednesday. “Many others, far more culpable than Mr. Robinson, have not been identified.”

How will the fine be paid?

In addition to his four-year prison sentence, Robinson was fined $ 12 million in damages.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which continued the case, restitution will be collected in different ways, including salaries, bank accounts, retirement foreclosures, and a monthly pay plan typically set by a judge.

Robinson will only be able to pay “a minimal amount for this,” said his lawyer, Mr Mauzy, adding that he expected the other three defendants to be ordered to pay part of the damages.

“None of the defendants have the capacity to pay a large sum,” he said.

The U.S. prosecutor’s office did not respond to an immediate request for comment on how Robinson might pay the fine.

Third Quarter police station was abandoned by police amid unrest last May

Michael Paul, of the FBI field office in Minneapolis in a statement, insists the fine is fair.

“The danger posed by the accused in this case was very real,” he said.

The conviction “sends a clear message” that when someone commits an act of violence that breaks federal law, they will be held accountable, Paul said.

Tasha Zerna, spokesperson for the local prosecutor’s office, told the BBC that restitution could be prosecuted against Robinson for his jail term over 20 years after his release.

This is not the first time that an American court has imposed such a large sum. In 2018, an Oregon judge ordered a 15-year-old to pay more than $ 36million (£ 27million) after admitting to starting a wildfire that raged for months.

A lawyer for the 15-year-old called the amount “absurd” and “absolutely silly.”

In his ruling, the judge said the figure was “clearly proportionate to the offense” because it did not exceed the financial damage caused by the fire.

But the judge also acknowledged that the Oregon teen would not be able to pay the full amount, citing “safety valves” in state law that allow young offenders to stop payments afterwards. 10 years if they complete their probation and do not commit any other crime.

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