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Monday, May 6, 2013

CA-SCU-#SummitFire: All Charges Dismissed Against Summit Fire Defendant #CALFIRE #CaFire

All Charges Dismissed Against Los Gatos Summit Fire Defendant

After dropping in January a felony charge of unlawfully causing the May 22, 2008 Summit Fire, the Santa Clara County District Attorney drops lesser misdemeanor against Channing Parker Verden.

Innocent Man Ruined By CAL FIRE

Update: 10 a.m. Monday, May 6: The case against a Los Gatos contractor accused of starting the 2008 Summit Fire was formally dismissed this morning in Santa Clara County Superior Court at the request of the District Attorney's Office, public defender Javier Rios said.
"I congratulate the District Attorney for doing the right thing and the smart thing. The DA’s office made the system work," Rios said about the dropping of the charges against Channing Parker Verden, who had been charged with a felony for unlawfully causing the May 22, 2008 inferno and a misdemeanor health and safety code violation alleging he failed to prevent the escape of the fire.
"He's relieved. He just wants some of his name cleared. He's had this shadow cast about him for several years," said Rios, adding that he and Verden had worked hard to prepare the case for trial and believe they would have won.
"We expected to prove that Cal Fire’s investigation was unscientific, unreliable and indefensible ... [It] failed to meet national standards. It failed to meet the very standards that Cal Fire sets for itself.  Cal Fire is very good at many things. Kudos to them for putting out the Summit Fire and the other wildfires they heroically fight. However, Cal Fire was not adept at investigating the cause of the 2008 Summit Fire," Rios said. 
After a felony charge of unlawfully causing the May 22, 2008 Summit fire against a Los Gatos contractor was dismissed in January due to insufficient evidence to prove it, a misdemeanor health and safety code violation alleging he failed to prevent the escape of the fire has also been dropped.
Santa Clara County Deputy Public Defender Javier Rios, who represents defendant Channing Parker Verden, had said he was ready for a jury trial to start last month on the lesser charge, but that legal proceeding will no longer be necessary.
Rios said he had demanded a speedy trial pursuant to the penal code, which meant the Santa Clara County Superior Court had 30 days to start the matter after it was delayed from April 20.
However, Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney David Boyd, who's been prosecuting the case, requested a delay and the case was continued until today, Monday May 6 before Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Thang Nguyen Barrett.
"Mr. Verden and I remain confident in our case. I know the case well and remain convinced that Channing Verden is innocent," Rios said.
Verden had been charged with recklessly starting the inferno more than four years ago after it's 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.
A person is guilty of Penal Code 452 (B) when he recklessly sets fire to or burns or cause to be burned, any inhabited structure. The felony charge carries a statutory maximum of four years in jail, Rios explained.
In January, when the felony charge was dropped, Rios said it was unfair to charge Verden, since Rios says conduct by a Cal Fire captain started the Loma wildfire. Rios alleges that the Cal Fire captain had a burnt pile going, failed to extinguish it, and has admitted to starting it. Rios also says Cal Fire has paid out claims on the Loma fire incident.
"I'm doing further investigation on the issue of Cal Fire's negligence as far as how they run burnt piles," Rios said. "My client has been raked over the coals ... He's exhausted his savings. He's spent all his money on attorneys. This has taken a toll on his health. He's an innocent man."
Source Los Gatos Patch:

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****REMINDER**** Every fire has the ability to be catastrophic. The wildland fire management environment has profoundly changed. Growing numbers of communities, across the nation, are experiencing longer fire seasons; more frequent, bigger, and more severe, fires are a real threat. Be careful with all campfires and equipment.
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