A mentally retarded serial arsonist who torched his own apartment building and caused a six-alarm fire at Toronto’s historic former Empress Hotel, hoping people would get hurt or die, has been sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Stewart Poirier, 53, bent over and grimaced when provincial court Justice Rebecca Rutherford imposed sentence, although it was precisely the term his lawyer, Dana Garrick, had requested.
Crown prosecutor Michael Callaghan had called for 12 years.
The homeless substance abuser has no insight into his anti-social, dangerous behavior, the judge said.
“The circumstances of Mr. Poirier’s life are sad and tragic,” she said. “It’s hard not to feel sympathy for Mr. Poirier … an impulse-ridden man with the brain of a boy.”
He spent his childhood institutionalized at Ontario Hospital in Smiths Falls, where he reports he was continually abused, both physically and sexually. The illiterate some-time male prostitute has been in and out of jail much of his life.
In October he pleaded guilty to attempted murder, threatening death and four counts of arson.
“It’s hard to believe such a sad and tragic man can do such damage,” Rutherford said.
Shortly after midnight on Jan. 3, 2011, he walked through an insecure gate into 335 Yonge St., the empty, historically designated former Empress Hotel, built in 1888, doused a wood pile on the third floor with gas and ignited it.
The resulting fire took 125 firefighters to extinguish. Two were injured when they lost their footing. Neither has fully recovered emotionally, court heard. Damages were over $3 million.