NIAGARA COUNTY, N.Y. (WIVB)- Two former friends stood feet apart in Niagara County Court Friday.
Matthew Jurado pleaded guilty to Arson in the Second Degree in May, for purposefully setting fire to Kenneth Walker’s Oliver Street apartment during the summer of 2016.
Friday, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
The crime was originally thought to be racially motivated; Walker is North Tonawanda’s only black volunteer firefighter.
Days before his home was destroyed, Walker received a racist letter suggesting he should resign from his position. However, the letter was never linked to Jurado.
“I’m not going to consider this as a hate crime. It seems to me though more accurately it’s a jealously crime. I think you were jealous of Mr. Walker, jealous of the fact that he was still on the fire service,” Judge Murphy told Jurado and his lawyer during sentencing.
Both Jurado and Walker were firefighters in North Tonawanda. Jurado was let go from his fire company, and told investigators he set fire to Walker’s home because he was angry Walker didn’t get him a job with his fire company.
“What happened was a moment of stupidity and not thinking,” Jurado said.
In court, he expressed regret that people thought his crime was race driven.
“I will be sorry as long as I live. Please forgive me,” he said in court.
Judge Murphy had previously agreed to cap Jurado’s sentence at 10 years. In court Friday, Jurado’s defense asked for eight years.
“This was justice for me. Seeing him finally pay for what he did,” Walker said after sentencing.
Walker, who lost two cats and all of his family’s belongings in that fire, said while he feels justice was served for him, his wife, and small children, he will not forgive Jurado for “uprooting our sense of security.”
In addition to 10 years behind bars, Jurado was sentenced to five years post release supervision.