DENVER — A lawyer for a Danish man charged with arson for starting a wildfire that destroyed over 100 homes in southern Colorado in 2018 urged a judge on Thursday to dismiss the case against him because doctors have found him unable to stand trial three times due to his mental health.
Lawyer Jane Fisher-Byrialsen told Judge Gregory Lyman during an online hearing that Jesper Joergensen has been held in jail for over 900 days and his delusional disorder leads him to refuse to take medication that could help him, making it unlikely that his condition will improve. If the case is dismissed, Joergensen, who was in the United States illegally at the time of the fire, would be immediately deported to Denmark.
“It may be that the right thing to do is to send Mr. Joergensen home,” she said.
Fisher-Byrialsen said Joergensen is indigent and will never be able to pay for any of the damage caused by the fire, which burned more than 156 square miles (404 square kilometres) east of Fort Garland, about 205 miles (330 kilometres) south of Denver.
She made her argument during a hearing to discuss Joergensen’s competency to stand trial that came a day after he refused to be taken from jail to another location for another mental health evaluation.
Prosecutor Cynthia Kowert told Lyman she would like to explore whether experts could evaluate Joergensen in jail and also whether he could be forcibly medicated, though she said the government would rather not resort to the latter.
Lyman scheduled another hearing for Feb. 4 to allow prosecutors time to consider their options.
According to court documents, Joergensen told police he had started a fire to burn trash on land where he was living in a camper despite a ban on open fires because of the dry conditions but later said he had been grilling in a permanent fire pit. He said he woke up from a nap, saw a fire burning in sage brush and burned himself as he tried to put it out.
Lyman said he believes the evidence shows that Joergensen started the fire but not that he intentionally started it to cause damage.
Colleen Slevin, The Associated Press