John Thiry is back on the streets after serving only two weeks of an eight-month sentence for threatening and throwing rocks at two Ashland Middle School girls in May.

John Thiry is back on the streets after serving only two weeks of an eight-month sentence for threatening and throwing rocks at two Ashland Middle School girls in May.

Thiry, 41, an Ashland homeless man acquitted in the Oak Knoll fire that burned 11 homes nearly one year ago, was released from the Jackson County Jail on Sunday because of overcrowding, said Andrea Carlson, spokeswoman for the sheriff's department.

Carlson said inmates are routinely granted early release when the jail is overcrowded. The formula for who qualifies for such releases is based on a matrix that calculates convictions, release date and time served.

"When there are forced releases, the jail looks at the names on the list and whomever is next, is released from jail," Carlson said.

On July 28, Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Timothy Gerking sentenced Thiry to a total of eight months in jail after convicting him of two charges of menacing and single counts each of harassment and disorderly conduct, all misdemeanors.

The two Ashland Middle School girls testified during the bench trial that Thiry threatened and threw rocks at them as they were walking to school along the city's bike path near Clay Street on May 10.

One 12-year-old girl said Thiry threatened to kill her and threw rocks at her, striking her back and head. Both girls ran to Ashland Middle School, reported the incident and spoke with police, they said.

In her closing arguments, county prosecutor Laura Cromwell asked for two consecutive eight-month sentences, listing Thiry's extensive arrest and conviction record for menacing, burglary and other crimes.

Cromwell acknowledged Thiry appears to suffer from alcoholism and mental illness. But because Thiry's current charges were all misdemeanors, the state could not mandate Thiry receive treatment, she said. The justice system can't provide any help for Thiry, Cromwell said. It can only keep the public safe.

In addition to the jail time, Gerking placed Thiry on 18 months' post-prison supervision and ordered him to have no contact with the girls or their school.

Thiry's parole officer, Lisa McCurley, program manager for Jackson County Community Justice, said Wednesday that when Thiry was released Sunday, he was not placed in any court-mandated programs for drug or alcohol treatment, or for alternative incarceration.

"We just have to move forward with what we've got," she said, adding Thiry will be monitored like any other person on probation.

Without commenting specifically on Thiry's mental health, McCurley noted Jackson County does not have a mental health court, adding there is a population of people currently on probation who "could use more resources."

Thiry's rock-throwing incident occurred not far from where he is suspected of igniting a grass fire Aug. 24, 2010, that spread across Interstate 5 to the Oak Knoll neighborhood, causing Ashland's worst residential fire in at least a century.

Thiry was found not guilty on 24 counts total of recklessly endangering another and reckless burning in December. Judge Lorenzo Mejia said that while he believed Thiry likely started the fire, prosecutors failed to prove Thiry was aware of the risks, a condition necessary for him to be considered guilty of recklessness.

On Jan. 22, Ashland police arrested Thiry after witnesses said he threw a 3-foot orange traffic delineator off the Ashland Street bridge and onto Interstate 5. Thiry pleaded guilty in May to a single felony charge of throwing an object off an overpass and was sentenced to 10 days in jail and 18 months' probation. He was given credit for time served and released that day.

It was the following day that Thiry was arrested for throwing rocks at the two school girls. The altercation took place not far from the site of the Oak Knoll fire, police noted.

Sanne Specht is a reporter for the Mail Tribune. Reach her at 541-776-4497 or email