Wei Li, the 49-year-old convicted of lighting his rental property on fire in the fall of 2017, was sentenced to two years in a federal penitentiary on Friday in the Supreme Court of B.C. (Facebook/Debbie Beech)

B.C. landlord sentenced to two years in jail for torching his own rental property

Wei Li was convicted of intentionally lighting his rental property on fire in October 2017

The man convicted of torching his rental property in Esquimalt wore a fully packed backpack and wheeled a small pink suitcase into the courtroom on Friday afternoon to find out how long he would be spending in jail.

Wei ‘George’ Li was sentenced to two years in a federal penitentiary for one count of arson in B.C. Supreme Court.

Justice Robin Baird was ready to give his reasons for judgment last Friday but agreed to adjourn until this week in order to give Li time to plan with his family. Li lives in Quebec with his estranged wife, who is dealing with a thyroid cancer diagnosis. They co-parent their two children, one of whom is on the autism spectrum.

RELATED: Esquimalt arsonist sentencing adjourned to allowing family time to plan

When asked if Li had anything final to say to the courts prior to hearing his sentence, he told the judge that he had prepared a two-page statement but was advised to seek counsel from his defence lawyer, Rolfe Horne, before reading it out loud.

After about a 10-minute break, Li stood up to deliver his edited statement, starting out by expressing his confusion with the guilty verdict and then thanking the police, who Li said did a “wonderful job.”

“I have to say I was really impressed by the professionalism, especially [by the fact] they even unlocked the iPhone,” said Li.

During the trial, in an agreed statement of facts, it came to light that in the days leading up to the fire, Li had searched how to transport gasoline in plastic containers and the distance and commute time from the property to the fire department.

In addition to the searches, an unexplained jerrycan with gas in it was found in the basement, which pointed to Li’s guilt, stated the judge, along with the fact that the firefighter who was primarily responsible for extinguishing the fire “reeked of gasoline.”

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

Li was arrested about 30 minutes after he set the fire. He was arrested at the Victoria International Airport after he sought medical attention for burns on his hands, face and neck.

The courts heard how Li and his tenant Billy Montgomery had a strained relationship that became “extremely volatile” leading up to the day of the fire, on Oct. 3, 2017.

Justice Baird said he believed Li’s motive for setting fire to Montgomery’s personal items in the garage was to intimidate Montgomery or force him off the property “or both.” Baird called the crime “premediated” and said the jury clearly rejected the defence that the fire had started from an electric spark when the lights were turned on.

“What the accused did here was extremely dangerous, not to mention unbelievably stupid,” said Baird.

Baird took into account the fact that prior to this incident, Li had no criminal record and said he had 50 years of previous good character.

In addition to thanking police, Li thanked his lawyer — who called a “true gentleman” and said he didn’t “need a win to know that” — along with the taxpayers.

One person clapped as Li was lead out of the courtroom in handcuffs, leaving his backpack and suitcase behind to be collected by the sheriffs.



kendra.crighton@blackpress.ca

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

Arson

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

Just Posted

Taking action to reduce wildfire risks in Columbia Basin

Trust provides over $1 million to address wildfire risks

Missing Slocan City man found dead

Douglas Morrison went missing in mid-January

Stroke survivors lean on each other in Nelson

‘I’ve learned more about strokes from being in the group than I did from anyone else’

Rossland rookie councillors offer advice to prospective candidates

Something to read before you decide to run in the upcoming by-election

Organic waste pick-up expected by 2022 in RDCK

But there are many unanswered questions in Nelson about cost and details

Blair says RCMP have met Wet’suwet’en conditions, calls for end to blockades

The Wet’suwet’en’s hereditary chiefs oppose the Coastal GasLink project

Health officials confirm sixth COVID-19 case in B.C.

Woman remains in isolation as Fraser Health officials investigate

Study says flu vaccine protected most people during unusual influenza season

Test-negative method was pioneered by the BC Centre for Disease Control in 2004

Saskatchewan and B.C. reach championship round at Scotties

British Columbia’s Corryn Brown locked up the last berth in Pool B

B.C. lawyer, professor look to piloting a mental-health court

In November, Nova Scotia’s mental-health court program marked 10 years of existence

COLUMN: Not an expert on First Nations government structures? Then maybe you should calm down

Consider your knowledge about First Nations governance structures before getting really, really mad

Meet the Wet’suwet’en who want the Coastal GasLink pipeline

Supporters of the pipeline are upset only one side is being heard nationwide

One dead in multi-vehicle collision involving logging truck on northern B.C. highway

DriveBC says highway expected to remain closed until 8 p.m.

B.C. teacher gets 15-year ban after lying about having sex with just-graduated student

Teacher had been dishonest with the B.C. Commissioner for Teacher Regulation

Most Read