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L.A. firefighters back decision to overturn parole for convicted arsonist

A local firefighters union on Tuesday cheered California Gov. Jerry Brown's decision to deny parole to a man convicted in a decades-old arson murder of a 34-year-old firefighter.

Mario Catanio of Van Nuys was convicted in 1983 of intentionally starting a fire at Cugee's Cafe in North Hollywood that killed Thomas G. Taylor and injured several other Los Angeles Fire Department personnel who responded to the blaze.

"Mario Catanio was convicted of murder and burglary and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for setting the fire that killed Taylor, who at the time had eight years with the LAFD," Capt. Frank Líma, president of the United Firefighters of Los Angeles City, said in a statement.

"While arsonist Catanio is now 71, he is still a danger to society today.  He has never said he's sorry, never apologized, and has never shown any remorse," said Líma, who added that Catanio will likely be up for parole again next year.

According to the "Indeterminate Sentence Parole Release Review" document posted on the union's website, Brown disagreed with the parole board's findings that: "Mr. Catanio is suitable for parole based on his remorse, insight, lack of disciplinary history, self-help programming and vocational upgrades, age, psychological report, and parole plans."

"I am concerned Mr. Catanio lacks a proper appreciation for the gravity of his actions," Brown wrote in the letter posted on the union's website, which was dated Dec. 14.

"I have considered the evidence in the record that is relevant to whether Mr. Catanio is currently dangerous. When considered as a whole, I find the evidence I have discussed shows why he currently poses a danger to society if released from prison," Brown wrote.

According to the document, restaurant owners Henry Martinez and Arlene Boyle hired Catanio for $2,500 to burn down their family restaurant so they could collect insurance money.

Firefighter Taylor responded to the blaze and died when he fell through the roof.


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-- Ari Bloomekatz

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