3 deny Malibu wildfire charges


first_imgThree men pleaded not guilty Friday to causing a wildfire that destroyed 50 homes in Malibu, and their lawyers said outside court they were being made scapegoats by an outraged community. Even the judge took the unusual step of denying from the bench that his Malibu neighbors had pressured him. “Nobody’s putting pressure on me,” said Superior Court Judge Michael K. Kellogg, who works in the San Fernando Valley but lives in Malibu. “No one … has come down from Malibu and knocked on my door and said, `Hey Judge, we know where you live!” Five men have been charged with recklessly causing the Nov. 24 fire that swept through 4,000 acres of Malibu canyon land. Six firefighters were hurt and 50 homes and 35 other buildings were destroyed. The judge did lower Frank’s bail from $230,000 to $100,000, saying that, according to witnesses, he was the only one who tried to put out the fire. “Everybody else was packing up their gear and getting ready to head for the parking lot,” the judge said. Franks’ public defender, Douglas Jay Goldstein, said his client still cannot raise the money and would spend the holidays in jail. All five are charged with recklessly causing a fire with great bodily injury and recklessly causing fire to inhabited structures.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORECoach Doc Rivers a “fan” from way back of Jazz’s Jordan ClarksonAttorneys entered not guilty pleas for Brian David Franks, 27; William Thomas Coppock, 23; and Brian Alan Anderson, 22, all of Los Angeles. The judge scheduled a preliminary hearing Jan. 7 to determine whether there is enough evidence to hold the three for trial. Two Culver City men, Dean Allen Lavorante, 19, and Eric Matthew Ullman, 18, face arraignment in February. They and Anderson are free on bail. During Friday’s hearing, the judge denied requests to free Coppock and Franks from jail without bail until trial. Their attorneys have argued the men were not a danger to the community. Prosecutors said their actions during the blaze put other people’s lives in danger. “There is nothing to show me that there wasn’t this callousness and a high level of carelessness,” Kellogg said. “And all the `sorrys’ in the world don’t change that.” last_img

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