Former dentist pleads mentally ill to property destruction and felony arson charges.
As part of the push for greater use of sustainable energy sources, more and more solar power locations are popping up around the country. That’s particularly true in desert locations – such as the area around Las Vegas – as the powerful sunshine that is seen throughout the year makes solar energy extremely effective. In fact, Las Vegas is one of the sunniest cities in the United States, with over 300 days of sunshine per year, making the location ideal for this useful resource. Unfortunately, one of these facilities was attacked near Las Vegas and a fire resulted. The arson attack took place earlier this month, during the winter months when the reliance on electricity tends to be greater than it is in the summer. Now, the perpetrator has been sentenced, effectively putting to rest a case that captured some attention due to its unusual and surprising nature.
While the City of Las Vegas is highly populated and developed, the surrounding area is largely a remote desert. It is within that desert that the solar array in question is located, away from the hustle and bustle of the city itself. Despite this, Mohammed Reza Mesmarian was charged and convicted of crashing his car into the facility and setting it on fire.
The car crashed through a fence that protects the property where it eventually hit a transformer. Then, the vehicle was set on fire and Mesmarian remained on scene for around 15 minutes to watch the fire before he left. Originally a dentist from Colorado, Mesmarian had his dental license restricted in 2022 for reasons that remain unclear.
Although the crime itself was rather dramatic given the location and the fire, the damage wasn’t particularly notable. The facilities that are served by the solar array – including casino resorts – were able to switch seamlessly to the state’s electricity grid without any downtime. It only took a few days for the power to start flowing from the solar facility again, and operations went back to normal.
Facing these charges, Mesmarian and his lawyer decided to enter a plea of “guilty but mentally ill.” That plea was in response to the charges of property destruction and felony arson. According to his attorney, Mesmarian has faced a variety of personal issues in recent years, including the loss of a marriage and losing his business, all allegedly tied to a decline in his mental health. In October 2022, as a result of some of these challenges, he filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
“Mesmarian admitted he knew setting a vehicle on fire could cause damage to the (transformer) unit, but stated he did it for the big message, larger picture, greater good,” his arrest report said. “He explained the greater good was clean energy.”
While these are still serious charges, they were actually downgraded from the initial charges that were leveled against Mesmarian. The first round included terrorism, destruction of property, and escape, but upon further investigation and negotiation, it was decided that the final charges were the most appropriate in this case.