Esquimalt arsonist sentencing adjourned to allowing family time to plan

Wei ‘George’ Li was found guilty of intentionally setting fire to his rental property in October

Sentencing for the man convicted of “torching” his Esquimalt rental property was adjourned on Friday – despite a Supreme Court Justice being ready to send him to jail – so that proper arrangements could be made for his wife to access funds in order to pay bills while he’s in custody.

In October 2019, Wei ‘George’ Li was found guilty by a 12-person jury of intentionally setting fire to the home in the 300-block of Uganda Avenue October 2017. The courts heard on Friday that Li and his wife, who suffers from thyroid cancer, are separated but live in the same home in Quebec to co-parent their two children, one of which is on the autism spectrum.

Justice Robin Baird was unimpressed with the Li’s lack of preparedness and said he was ready to sentence him then and there, but thanks to the lack of opposition from Crown, he would grant the adjournment.

READ ALSO: Guilty verdict for man accused of setting fire to his Esquimalt rental property

“I do find it surprising that he is taken so unaware by the fact that he should face a jail sentence for torching a house in the middle of a densely populated residential area,” said Baird, who will now deliver his sentence on Wednesday. According to Horne, Li’s wife has no banking details which need to be transferred to her, along with a leased car that needs to be dealt with.

“What in the world did you think was going to happen today,” asked Justice Baird, who said he was “amazed” that Li had not dealt with this.

Li said he thought he would be sent to Quebec and would have to surrender himself there.

During the trial, the courts heard that Li had a strained relationship with his upstairs tenant Billy Montgomery and had attempted to evict him and another tenant in order to address a number of electricity and plumbing issues in the house.

Li testified that Montgomery refused to leave the home and the court heard the two had a series of serious conflicts – some physical – in the days leading up to the fire.

READ ALSO: Esquimalt arson trial hears of feud with tenant before the fire

Montgomery was not in his unit when the fire was started, but returned from a morning outing on Oct. 3, 2017 to find the garage up in flames. Authorities found Li at the Victoria International Airport with burns to the left side of his face and ears. He was arrested and taken to hospital.

Evidence included boxes of kindling found in the home’s garage, a half-full jerrycan, and a number of web searches made on Li’s cellphone for information on gasoline and the locations of nearby police and fire departments.

While arson carries a maximum sentence of 14 years, crown lawyer Jess Patterson suggested a sentence ranging from two to five years.

“The factors that are really pushing me towards the higher end of what I thought was an appropriate sentence was Mr.Li’s disregard for what happened after the fire,” Patterson said. “But [if not] for the burns, Mr. Li would have left.

It appeared Horne asked for two years in federal prison to allow Li to serve time somewhere in Quebec, closer to his family.

Li has also been ordered to not leave the Island until he has been sentenced. His passport was seized at the time of his arrest two years ago.



nina.grossman@blackpress.ca

Follow us on Instagram
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Saanich Peninsula steps into post-pandemic phase

Pending partial re-opening of local schools signals new start

Craft vendors allowed to re-join Goldstream Farmers Market

Dr. Bonnie Henry lightens restrictions, approves non-food items to be sold

Three people sent to hospital following serious crash in View Royal

Incident involved a motorcycle and one vehicle on Sunday afternoon

Tour de Rock alum is newest Oak Bay Police officer

Const. Derek Brand did nine years as volunteer reserve officer

Saanich high school student wins free educational trip through Europe

Beaverbrook Vimy Prize centers on First, Second World War history

VIDEO: Injured bald eagle rescued in B.C. First Nations community

Bird suspected injured in fight, whisked off to Coquitlam rehab

Toronto Raptors’ Ujiri says conversations about racism can no longer be avoided

Thousands have protested Floyd’s death and repeated police killings of black men across the United States

B.C.’s Central Kootenay region declares state of emergency, issues evacuation orders

The evacuation alert covers all areas except the Cities of Castelgar and Nelson

‘I’m afraid’: Witnesses of wolf attack on senior near Prince Rupert worried about safety

Frank Russ shows where the unprovoked wolf attacked his father

Protesters prepare to rally against racism in front of Vancouver Art Gallery

Rally is in response to the deaths of black Americans and a Toronto woman

Man dies in ATV accident south of Nanaimo

Incident happened on backroad Friday night in Nanaimo Lakes area

Protesters rally against anti-black, Indigenous racism in Toronto

Police estimated the crowd to be between 3,500 and 4,000 and said there was no violence

Feds earmark $1.5M to support recovery of B.C., Indigenous tourism

B.C. money will be split between Vancouver Island and Indigenous tourism

‘We’re sick of it’: Anger over police killings shatters U.S.

Tens of thousands marched to protest the death of George Floyd

Most Read