Former Lillian resident pleads guilty to conspiracy to set fire to Mobile, Mississippi Walmarts

Published: Sep. 8, 2022 at 11:49 AM CDT
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MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - A former Lillian resident on Thursday admitted guilt for his role in a string of Walmart fires last year, agreeing to a plea bargain in which he confessed to a conspiracy.

Quinton Olson, 21, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to maliciously destroy by fire. The plea document mentions one specific fire, on Rangeline Service Road South. Co-conspirator Mikayla Scheele has admitted to setting that fire in the hardware section of the store. The conspiracy involved four fires in May and June last year.

Prosecutors allege co-defendant Jeffery Sikes directed Sean Bottorff to create and disseminate a document entitled “Declaration of War and Demands for the People,” which laid out a list of grievances with the world’s largest retailer.

Olson’s attorney, Barre Dumas, said his client was under the influence of the much-older Sikes and played a minimal role.

“He’s 21 at the time of the incident,” he said. “But he was more or less in a vulnerable state of mind, subject to undo influence from this guy Sikes. … A 21-year-old, an impressionable 21-year-old, see limited options.”

Olson faces a maximum of five years in prison. Dumas said he hopes for a minimal sentence but noted that economic losses drive advisory sentencing guidelines and that Walmart incurred damages of $11 million from the four fires.

Dumas said his client does not intend to testify against his co-defendants. He said Olson is afraid, adding that it is the same factor that led to his criminal conduct.

“It’s done out of fear and done out of concern for family members,” he said.

U.S. District Judge Terry Moorer set sentencing for March. Until then, the defendant will be allowed to remain in the custody of his mother in Spokane, Washington.

Olson moved from Nebraska to Gulf Shores and was working at a restaurant at the beach, Dumas said. At some point, he ended up living in Lillian with several relatives and friends. The seven-page manifesto sent to media organizations outlined a list of demands of Walmart, including an $18 per hour minimum wage for its workers and better health care for employees.

The document also called for cap on high earnings to reduce the gap between the highest and lowest paid. In addition, the authors wanted Walmart to develop a climate change plan and source more of its items from goods manufactured in the United States.

Sikes and co-defendants Sean Bottorff, Michael Bottorff and Alexander Olson are set for trial in next year. Sikes’ wife, Erica Sikes, and Sean Bottorff’s wife, Jenna Bottorff, was scheduled to be arraigned later this month. A grand jury recently named them in an updated indictment.

Dumas said his client takes responsibility for his participation but added that it did not include any overt acts.

“This defendant did not set the fires,” he said. “He was on the periphery of this.”


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