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Arsonist sent to prison for nearly five years

A man convicted of torching his own house on fire in Ellendale more than three years ago will spend almost five years in prison.
Steele County Judge Joseph Bueltel handed down a 58-month sentence last Wednesday for Mark Allan Misgen, 43. The sentence comes after Misgen was convicted last fall of first-degree arson and insurance fraud. 
Misgen was taken into custody by sheriff’s deputies immediately after the sentencing last week. He will be initially taken to the St. Cloud Prison for assessment before it is determined exactly which prison facility he will be housed at for the remainder of his sentence.
Richard Swanson, Misgen’s attorney, argued before the court for a downward departure in order for Misgen to avoid prison time. Swanson said prison would put a hardship on Misgen’s family, which includes a newborn child. 
Misgen told the judge that he did not believe it would be beneficial for his children to be without their father. 
But county attorney Daniel McIntosh requested the judge to not be lenient.
“The best way to be there for your family is not to be out committing felonies,” McIntosh said.
He said leniency is not warranted in Misgen’s case because, in part, he was on felony probation when he committed the arson. “He shows no sign of remorse at all,” McIntosh said, adding that Misgen still maintains his innocence. 
McIntosh was also candid about what Misgen’s actions did for others. “He put other people, including firefighters and neighbors, at risk in Ellendale,” McIntosh said. 
This crime also had a financial impact on the City of Ellendale, according to McIntosh.  Last fall the city demolished what remained of the house.
The judge has also ordered Misgen to pay $20,000 in restitution. 
McIntosh had actually argued for a higher sentence of 68 months, but the judge dropped it down to 58 months. Misgen will be required to serve about two-thirds of the sentence, or about three years.
The county attorney is happy to bring an end to the arson case, which has dragged on for more than three years. In December 2011, there were two fires within hours of each other at Misgen’s house on Main Street in Ellendale. The second fire resulted in a total loss and is believed to be the one set by Misgen. The family later filed an insurance claim of $395,000.
Misgen’s wife, Sara Degen-Misgen, had also been charged in the case, but later reached a plea bargain. Instead, she pleaded guilty to an unrelated charge of issuing a dishonest check. 
During Misgen’s trial, McIntosh had seven experts testify and received “good, smart investigative work by sheriff’s investigators and the state fire marshal’s office.”
McIntosh said: “I give them (investigators) a lot of credit for not giving up on it.”
He added arson cases are typically the toughest of any criminal case to prove. “You’re literally destroying your crime scene (with fire).”

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