SAN JOSE -- The man who prosecutors say orchestrated the torching of Merritt Trace Elementary School in 2010 was sentenced on Friday to 10 years in prison for the arson he committed as a 16-year-old.

The case of Kliefert Guiang, 19, was stalled when doctors found him incompetent for trial in late 2011. Since then, he has spent time at a state hospital where doctors "worked with him, explained criminal proceedings and restored him to competency," said Santa Clara County prosecutor Alaleh Kianerci.

A co-defendant in the case, Lazarus Reavallez, was given an eight-year sentence last year.

While as part of plea agreements both Reavallez and Guiang had charges reduced from aggravated arson -- which carries a 10-year-to-life term -- to arson of a structure, Guiang was given a longer sentence because prosecutors said he played a greater role in the arson.

"He was kind of the ringleader," Kianerci said. "The way we looked at it, he had more egregious active participation."

The sentences for both men included a four-year enhancement because damages were more than $3.5 million.

Kianerci said Guiang had an additional conviction for felony child endangerment because he brought an 11-year-old boy he was looking after to the scene, and forced him to participate in the burning of the school. That sentence will run concurrently.


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Guiang's attorney could not be reached for comment Friday.

Guiang and Reavallez both reportedly confessed to police that they used cardboard and paper found in a recycling bin to start two simultaneous fires at different sides of one of San Jose's largest elementary schools early July 5, 2010. It turned into a six-alarm conflagration that did about $14 million in damages.

After two years of learning in portable classrooms, a new two-story 18-classroom facility was opened at the start of this school year.

"It's one of those things, where inside of a horrible tragedy something good came of it," Kianerci said. "Hopefully these two defendants have learned their lesson and won't be back in the criminal justice system."

Contact Eric Kurhi at 408-920-5852. Follow him at Twitter.com/erickurhi.