Federal prosecutors seek prison, millions of dollars in restitution, in Mobile Walmart arson case

Published: May. 25, 2023 at 10:17 PM CDT
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MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - Federal prosecutors are seeking millions of dollars in restitution and prison time and for defendants they consider most culpable for a string of Walmart arsons two years ago.

Seven of eight defendants are scheduled to be sentenced Friday, but that may not happen. A daylong evidentiary hearing Thursday will spill over into Friday and could take the batter part of the day, according to lawyers involved in the case.

U.S. District Judge Terry Moorer spent Thursday listening to testimony and arguments about the various roles each of the defendants played in the wide-ranging scheme.

“He got an earful today,” said Barre Dumas, an attorney for Quinton Olson. “He’ll get another earful tomorrow.”

Several of the defendants have asked for lighter sentences because they played minor roles. They blame the purported ringleader, Jeffery Sikes, who they allege coerced the other conspirators. Sikes’ lawyer, Tom Walsh, told FOX10 News that is not true.

The case involves a string of fires that occurred in May and June 2021. Two stores in Mobile and two along the Mississippi Gulf Coast sustained damage, while media organizations received a mysterious manifesto entitled “Declaration of War and Demands for the People” Sikes admitted that he directed the creation of that seven-page document, which demanded better working conditions and higher pay for Walmart employees, among other things.

Ultimately, four defendants pleaded guilty to conspiracy to maliciously set fire, while three others pleaded guilty to lesser offenses. Another defendant, Mikayla Scheele, pleaded guilty in a separate case. She testified Thursday for the prosecution, outlining Sikes’ role in the plot. Lawyers for the other defendants will get a chance to cross-examine her when the hearing resumes on Friday.

Prosecutors are seeking prison time for Sikes and several other defendants, as well as $6.3 million in restitution.

Also on Thursday, several Pensacola-area residents testified that Sikes defrauded them with a scheme involving a device called “The LOVE Element Filtration System” that purportedly was capable of breaking down all the world’s pollution and garbage into elements that could be recycled.

It is unclear how many, if any, of the defendants will be sentenced Friday. Dumas said he hopes the judge gets to his client. He said his client played a minor role and does not deserve prison time.

“Quinton’s never been in trouble before,” he said. “He’s got zero criminal history points.”

The judge previously postponed sentencing for one of the defendants, Sean Bottorff, after his lawyer asked for additional time to prepare “novel mitigation evidence.”