Man gets 5 years for setting fire to Southwest Side Walgreens amid 2020 looting

Jose Valdovinos was sentenced to 5 years in federal prison Friday for setting fire to a Walgreens store on the city’s Southwest Side in June 2020.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times file

A federal judge handed a mandatory-minimum five-year prison sentence Friday to a man who admitted setting fire to a Southwest Side Walgreens store amid the rioting and looting in Chicago in 2020. 

Explaining his reasoning to Jose Valdovinos, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly called the crime “really extraordinarily serious” and stressed that it went beyond the $2.5 million loss prosecutors say it caused to Walgreens.

“The folks who were out protesting on those nights … were legitimately protesting a horrible thing that had happened and bringing attention to it,” Kennelly said. “And then there were people like Mr. Valdovinos who, you know, chose to use that as an opportunity to trash things, steal things, burn things down and so on. And it just defiles the legitimate advocacy that people were doing.” 

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Assistant U.S. Attorney Kavitha Babu wrote in a court memo last month that Valdovinos took advantage of the protests over the murder of George Floyd.

“The fact that no one was injured or killed in the fire is dumb luck,” Babu wrote. 

Valdovinos pleaded guilty in May, acknowledging he started a fire in a white bucket in the pharmacy area of the store in the 4000 block of West 59th Street. That fire spread, and prosecutors say it led to the collapse of the roof and the closure of the store.

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Before he was sentenced, Valdovinos told the judge what he did was “terrible.”

“It’s a horrible crime,” Valdovinos said. “It’s no excuse to say that I was on drugs, that I don’t remember. … I’m going to step up and take full responsibility for what I did.”

Babu wrote that Valdovinos and two friends trespassed into the Walgreens store around 1 a.m. on June 1, 2020, entering through the back storage area. They then entered the retail floor and began filling large garbage bags with merchandise before carrying them out to their cars, …read more

Source:: Chicago Sun Times

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