DA recommends four years behind bars
By Brandi Makuski
A Stevens Point man accused of setting fire to the Church St. Dollar General last year was convicted by a judge on Friday.
Brian Kraus, who turned 20 in jail, initially pleaded not guilty after being arrested for arson last May. He changed his plea last October to not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect, but the doctor who examined Kraus didn’t support the claim.
“The doctor could not agree that he was not responsible for his action at the time,” said Portage Co. District Attorney Louis Molepske.
Kraus was in court on Oct. 21 and was found guilty after withdrawing his insanity plea, and entering a plea of no contest before Judge Thomas Eagon on the sole charge of arson.
The case has taken so long due in part to his psychological examination, according to court records, as well as Kraus’ inability to keep a lawyer for long. Court records show he has been granted four court-appointed attorneys over the past 16 months.
While in custody at the Portage Co. Jail, Kraus was arrested again for helping his then-cellmate attempt suicide; that attempt failed. The charge was read into the record but ultimately dismissed.
Kraus was an employee at the Dollar General, 3260 Church St., when on May 7, 2015 he tried to burn down the building. According to the criminal complaint, Kraus initially told police the fire started with a smoking microwave he’d used to heat his dinner while on break, but the store’s surveillance cameras showed he never used the microwave.
Instead, police saw footage of Kraus in the back office with a lighter three minutes before smoke appeared on camera.
Fire crews were called to the scene shortly after 6 PM that day and remained for several hours. No one was injured.
The maximum penalty for arson of a building is 40 years in prison. While Molepske said the crime was “serious”, he also pointed to Kraus’ lack of criminal record, and said he would recommend a sentence of 13 years — four behind bars, with the remainder of extended supervision.
Kraus returns to court for sentencing Dec. 21.