DALTON, Massachusetts — A Massachusetts man was sentenced Thursday to one year in jail for burning down a stack of hay bales that a local farm had decorated in support of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris during the lead up to last year’s presidential election, prosecutors said.
Lonnie Durfee, 50, of Dalton will serve out the sentence on a single count of burning personal property at the Berkshire County House of Correction in Pittsfield.
Berkshire District Attorney Andrea Harrington’s office said the penalty is the maximum jail time allowed under law.
“The use of fire has a deeply rooted association with political and civil rights intimidation. This fire victimized not only the property owners but represented a threat to entire communities,” she said in a statement. “This sentence sends a message that our community will not accept those types of actions and that civility and respect will prevail.”
The display at Holiday Brook Farm in Dalton had featured 19 wrapped hay bales painted with the words “USA” and “VOTE” along with the names of the then-Democratic presidential ticket.
On Oct. 9, 2020, Durfee used motor oil and gasoline to set the display alight because he “disagreed with the political stance it represented,” according to a police report.
Durfee withdrew his guilty plea last month when he learned the judge would sentence him to the maximum penalty under law, as prosecutors sought, The Berkshire Eagle reported. This week, he ultimately decided to accept the guilty plea, prosecutors said.
Durfee’s lawyer Robert Sullivan said his client apologized in court Thursday for the impact his actions had on the community.
When asked why his client had initially withdrawn from the plea deal, he said Durfee just needed more time to process the sentencing.
“After careful thought, he wanted to take responsibility, begin his sentence and utilize the services at the jail to make improvements in his life for when he is released,” Sullivan said.