Summit Fire Trial Date For Los Gatos Summit Fire Defendant Now Set For April 22
|Defendant Channing Parker Verden|
accused of failing to prevent the massive Summit fire more than four years ago
The trial date for the Los Gatos contractor accused of failing to prevent the massive Summit fire more than four years ago has now been set for April 22.
According to Javier Rios, Santa Clara County deputy public defender, Channing Parker Verden will be ready for the jury trial, which will take place at Santa Clara County Superior Court in San Jose.
A felony charge of unlawfully causing the May 22, 2008 Summit fire against a Los Gatos contractor was dismissed Jan. 28 due to insufficient evidence to prove it, Rios said.
Verden, however, faces a misdemeanor health and safety code violation alleging he failed to prevent the escape of the fire, Rios added.
Verden had been charged with recklessly starting the inferno after it was alleged he left burning piles of debris at a home located at 31000 Summit Road owned by Los Gatos resident Andrew Napell.
Cal Fire has said the Summit fire burned 4,270 acres, began at 5:17 a.m., destroyed 35 residences, 64 outbuildings, caused 16 injuries and cost more than $16 million to fight.
Rios said the presiding judge will decide if the case goes to trial that week or not and that the decision could depend on whether or not there are available courtrooms.
How many witnesses he calls depends somewhat on which witnesses Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney David Boyd, who's prosecuting the case, calls as witnesses, Rios indicated.
If Verden is found guilty by the jury of the misdemeanor then it will be up to the trial judge to determine the sentence. The maximum jail time he could receive is six months, according to Rios.
"This man is innocent," he told Los Gatos Patch. "Furthermore, it still puzzles me that the Office of the District Attorney chose to file charges against my client when they elected to not file charges against a Cal Fire employee who, according to Cal Fire reports, failed to adequately extinguish a burn pile."
That Cal Fire burn pile, according to Cal Fire, started the Loma Fire, a large wildfire, Rios said.
Just last year, according to news reports, a Cal Fire burn pile also started the Lawler Wildfire. "These apparent discrepancies suggest a double standard. When Cal Fire believes that their own employees cause a wildfire, does the law look the other way?" he asked.
Tags: 2008 Fire Season CA-SCU-Summit California Wildfires 2008 Santa Clara County Summit Fire