|Channing Parker Verden|
Los Gatos contractor accused of
starting the May 22, 2008 Summit fire
Public defender representing Los Gatos contractor accused of starting massive inferno in May of 2008 is asking for six months to prepare, prosecutor says he'll object to such delay.
The trial for the Los Gatos contractor accused of starting the May 22, 2008 Summit fire could take several months to begin due to the appointment of a public defender who's unfamiliar with the complicated case and is asking for extra time to prepare.
Channing Parker Verden's trial setting hearing on May 9 got postponed one more week until May 16 since Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney David Boyd could not appear at that time.
"They've informed me that they would like six months before they'll even tell the court when they're ready," Boyd said Friday. "We'll know their final decision next Wednesday ... but we're not going to agree to that."
Santa Clara County Deputy Public Defender Javier Rios is now representing Verden. On Friday he said he intended to ask Superior Court Judge Rise Jones Pichon for more time to carefully review the case to be ready for trial.
Rios said the case is complicated with many witnesses, reports to study and photographs to examine. "I want to make sure that I'm doing everything I can to prepare the case for my client," he said.
Verden's previous attorney, Michael Hingle, withdrew from the case in February due to what Boyd said was the defendant's inability to pay for counsel.
Verden, who has been present during the hearings, is said to be heavily burdened by the charges brought against him stemming from Cal Fire investigators allegations that he left burning piles of debris at a home located at 31000 Summit Road owned by Los Gatos resident Andrew Napell, causing the fire.
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.
A Google map on Cal Fire's website shows how the inferno engulfed many mountainous areas in Los Gatos and came dangerously close to Highway 17, 10 miles roughly from the center of town, according to Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant.
Boyd said Verden has been charged with unlawfully causing a fire that causes an inhabited structure or property to burn, an allegation of causing multiple structures to burn and a misdemeanor health and safety code violation alleging negligently causing a fire.
If convicted, Verden could be sentenced to up to seven years in prison or receive probation or no jail time, Boyd said.
It's possible, however, that Verden could receive probation, Boyd said.