Rainer Klaus Reinscheid, UCI Professor Behind Arsons and Scary Threats, Gets 14 Years+ in Prison; Judge Explains His Sentence: Update
See the update at the end of Page 2 where the judge explains his sentence for the professor.
ORIGINAL POST, AUG. 22, 3:29 P.M.: The UC Irvine professor who became a serial arsonist and either a wannabe mass killer/rapist--or someone who fantasized about that--after his bullied 14-year-old son hanged himself, was finally sentenced today to 14 years and four months in prison.
Sentencing for Rainer Klaus Reinscheid, 49, of Irvine, came after a hearing that actually began Aug. 1, got hot and heavy the past two days and finally ended with Orange County Superior Court Judge Gregg Prickett's decree this afternoon.
Previous coverage: Rainer Klaus Reinscheid, UCI Professor Driven to Edge by Son's Suicide, Pleads Guilty to Arson Rainer Klaus Reinscheid, UCI Professor and Grieving Father, Faces More Arson Charges Rainer Klaus Reinscheid, UCI Professor, Held for Threats and Arsons
Los Angeles Angels vs. Cincinnati Reds
TicketsMon., Aug. 29, 7:05pm
Premium Seating: Los Angeles Angels v TEXAS RANGERS
TicketsFri., Sep. 9, 7:05pm
Los Angeles Angels vs. Texas Rangers
TicketsFri., Sep. 9, 7:05pm
Premium Seating: Los Angeles Angels v SEATTLE MARINERS
TicketsMon., Sep. 12, 7:05pm
The unusually drawn-out process was due to all the testimony for and against harsh punishment for the respected scholar who was held without bail for more than a year because he was deemed a threat to society.
Attorneys for Reinscheid argued Wednesday that fires the professor last month pleaded guilty to setting never really threatened anyone, that his threatening emails (that were never sent to anyone) were really grief therapy journals and that mental health experts do not find the German national a threat to anyone now.
All of that should have factored into Judge Prickett's sentence, the defense argued Wednesday. Prickett adjourned until today by explaining he needed more time to digest the new arguments and documents filed in the case.
University High School Assistant Principal Michael Georgino had told the court Tuesday that Reinscheid "terrorized" his family by setting or trying to set three fires at his Costa Mesa home. The threat hangs over Georgino's head to this day, he said, adding he cannot start his car without wondering if it will explode due to a device hidden inside.
State guidelines dictated the judge hand down a sentence of three to 18 years behind bars for Reinscheid having pleaded guilty under a court deal last month to multiple felony arson counts. A conviction without the guilty plea would have set Reinscheid up for a maximum sentence of 21 years and four months in prison.
Deputy District Attorney Andrew Katz argued for the maximum, telling the court the "godfather of arson investigations" informed the Orange County District Attorney's office that Reinscheid is "as much a danger today as the day he was arrested."
The fact that the fires Reinscheid set did not cause significant damage should not have been factored into the sentence, despite the defense's contention otherwise, according to Katz, who countered the potential for serious harm then and now should have informed the judge.
The defense presented strong suport for Reinscheid from his lawyers, mental health experts, friends, family and the professor himself.
Reinscheid was "self-medicating" with drugs he ordered online and with cheap wine as he grieved after his son's suicide, leading to the "perfect storm" that caused the educator to set the arson fires, defense attorney Joshua Glotzer reportedly said Wednesday (via City News Service's Paul Anderson).
Glotzer characterized Reinscheid's son of having had "emotional and learning issues," depression and of having been a loner with only one friend before taking his life. He acted out by stealing food, prompting Georgino to punish him with trash pick-up duty in March of 2012, Glotzer said. The boy left campus about 1:30 p.m., and his father and stepmother searched for him through the night, Glotzer reportedly said.
The next day, Irvine Police informed the Reinscheids that the boy had hanged himself in Irvine's Mason Park Preserve. The teen's father found his backpack and bike during the previous night's search and left a note there saying, "Please come home," and signing it "Poppa," according to Glotzer.
The defense's mental health experts said the trauma of the suicide combined with the alcohol and drug use damaged Reinscheid's ability to think rationally. The professor kept a journal detailing plans to kill University High School students and administrators as a form of therapy, not because he seriously wanted to carry out the threats in the emails, Glotzer argued.
The defense's mental health experts further contended Reinscheid is not a risk to re-offend, adding it is likely he will be deported to Germany after he is done serving his time anyway.
Reinscheid's other attorney, Dan Leib, reportedly argued that the blazes Reinscheid set in Irvine were minor. Reinscheid torched a plastic chair on Georgino's porch, which the victim himself doused with water, Leib said. Georgino also extinguished a stack of burning newspapers on his property, the attorney noted, adding, "These were not enormous blazes. They were small in nature."
He is also said to have characterized the fires in the park where Reinscheid's son died as being of "very little risk of spreading out of control," which is pretty much how the attorney described two fires at the high school.
Reporter Anderson also set the scene in court Tuesday, reporting that Reinscheid dabbed at his eyes as his wife and others spoke on his behalf. He would go on to reportedly say: "I can now admit after my son's death my grief was overwhelming. My grief turned into frustration and anger."
He continued that he feels he "failed as a father" and "transferred" his frustrations onto Georgino.
"I would like to take this opportunity to apologize," he reportedly told the judge. "My irrational thoughts and frustration are gone. I lost my son and then I lost myself. Now I am asking you and so many others to give me and show me mercy."
Reinscheid explained he needs to be free to try to provide for his family again.
"Please, your honor, let me go back to my son. He's only 7," Reinscheid reportedly said, adding that his surviving son told his mother over the holidays that he didn't want gifts from Santa but a reunion with his dad.
The professor also played the God card, claiming that he and his wife converted to Christianity during his year in jail.
His wife Wendy Reinscheid said her husband turned to alcohol, medication, therapy and seminars to deal with his grief but they "didn't alleviate the pain. ... He also wrote down dark messages" that were inspired by a therapist's suggestion to write down his thoughts.
The unsent emails the judge and prosecutors used to keep the professor locked up without bail since July 27, 2012, did not produce criminal counts, but Katz argued the written threats should have been considered by the judge in imposing his sentence. Wendy Reinscheid asked Prickett Tuesday to instead consider her husband's scientific contributions in the field of pain relief and the mentoring he provided to his students and classmates over the years, points that were also raised by other supporters of the scholar.
"He was a heartbroken father who did not cope well," she said. "He lost everything."
Richard Chamberlain, chairman of UCI's pharmaceutical sciences department that employs Reinscheid, called his colleague a "truly outstanding scientist" who was awarded tenure in half the usual time. He also drew high marks as a professor from students, Chamberlain added.
"Based on the man I know, crimes like these are entirely out of character," Chamberlain reportedly told the judge, adding that Reinscheid, who is officially on leave, will lose tenure and his "academic career is over." An associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences at UCI, Reinscheid has taught there for about 12 years.
Two of German national Reinscheid's friends and a brother had pleaded to Prickett for leniency earlier this month.
Dieter Reinscheid, the scholar's brother, also played up Rainer's research and published papers aimed at treating pain and anxiety for all.
His brother also told the court the story of how Rainer canceled a job interview at UCI to catch the first flight back to Germany when their father suffered a heart attack in 2004.
Christoph Post, a fellow German who befriended Rainer Reinscheid when they went to school together in Michigan in the 1970s, told the court the pair shared a "mutual passion for music" and formed a rock band.
Post, who came to Santa Ana from Germany to testify on Reinscheid's behalf, called his friend "one of the best friends I have," "one of the few people I share my innermost thoughts with" and "one of the brightest and most intelligent people I know."
The case against Reinscheid "shocked" Post, who added, "I can't imagine him doing anything he fantasized about" and surmised a "catastrophic event" sent his buddy over the edge.
Wei Si, a graduate student of Reinscheid's who came to UCI from China, told the court at the earlier hearing that next to her fiance, her professor is the closest person she has to family in the States. She called him "caring," "warm-hearted" and "encouraging" and described him as sensitive and compassionate as she went through some personal problems and stress from her her doctoral thesis.
Like Post, Si found Reinscheid's crimes a "cry for help," adding that it personally offends her to hear the professor referred to as a "monster" because those critics "don't really know him."
Claas Reinscheid Stubbe hung himself in March 2012 at Mason Park, near his father's Irvine home. Stubbe was ordered to pick up trash after stealing a snack bar. The boy had gotten into trouble once before in grade school and was "humiliated" when he was given the same punishment, being teased by classmates as "trash boy," his stepmother, Wendy Reinscheid, told Judge Prickett.
Distraught over his son's suicide, Reinscheid took his leave at UCI and went on to set six arson fires and three attempted arsons between July 4-24, 2012, by lighting various objects on fire including newspapers, brush and vegetation, a book, and a plastic porch chair. He used fireplace logs in some cases as an accelerant. His targets were Mason Park, Uni High and the Costa Mesa home of the assistant principal.
Irvine police officers saw Reinscheid try to set a fire at Mason Park on July 24, 2012, the day he was arrested (after putting up resistance to being taken into custody). He later made his $50,000 bail and was released.
But further investigation not only uncovered his ties to previous arson fires and attempts but that he had written emails to his wife in April 2012 detailing plans to purchase firearms, burn down Uni High and murder and sexually assault school officials and students.
Reinscheid had also done online searches related to purchasing weapons, explosives and fertilizer. Based on this new information, he was re-arrested on July 27, 2012, and held without bail.
He pleaded guilty July 9 to one count of arson of another's property, two counts of arson of a structure, and three counts each of arson of forestland and attempted arson, along with a misdemeanor count of resisting or obstructing an officer.
Reinscheid is now due back in court in Santa Ana Nov. 15 for a restitution hearing, according to prosecutors.
UPDATE, AUG. 22, 5:27 P.M.: Judge Prickett explained his sentence for Reinscheid, according to an update by City News Service's Calvin Milam.
The judge settled on the upper end of the sentencing guidelines and then deducted 393 days for the professors time in custody since his arrest, plus another 393 days for good behavior.
Prickett reportedly said he considered all the statements from victims, including unsent emails Reinscheid wrote about harming University High School counselors and administrators, and from Reinscheid's family and friends.
The judge singled out a July 12, 2012, emai in which Reinscheid wrote that those who hurt his son "need to suffer before they die." Prickett also said he took into consideration University High School having to be locked down four times since the professor's son committed suicide and the professor set fires, as well as a statement by a woman who quoted Reinscheid saying, "It's all my fault" about a month after his son's death.
Prickett noted that Reinscheid lost most of his appellate rights by pleading guilty, but the professor may appeal if he feels any mistakes were made in sentencing. He will likely be deported once his prison term ends.
"It was a difficult, tragic case," Reinscheid attorney Dan Leib reportedly conceded after the hearing. "The judge appeared to be quite swayed by the impacts on the school, families and community."
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss OC Weekly's biggest stories. Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts