By Özge Terzioğlu
SACRAMENTO – A court here scolded a defendant who admitted setting a fire—even one that didn’t cause any real damage—in light of the massive and vicious wildfires raging across California.
About a month ago, on August 5, defendant Amber McClain set a fire that burned 200 by 20 feet worth of brush and seasonal plants in a forest land area at the intersection of Croydon Way and Mather Field Road in Rancho Cordova, located in Sacramento County.
The defendant pleaded no contest Monday in Sacramento County Superior Court to her felony violation of PC section 452 (c), recklessly causing a fire.
When reading the facts of the case, Deputy District Attorney Adrianne McMillan noted that the defendant was identified by several witnesses, and when she was contacted by police she had many different lighters in her purse.
The judge was prompted to ask if there was a mental health issue he should know about, because he was flabbergasted as to why the defendant would carry so many lighters on her person.
Assistant Public Defender Tatiana Cottam replied that “homeless people tend to have a lot of lighters, your honor.”
The judge asked defendant McClain if she was homeless. She responded, “I’m currently homeless, but I’m trying to change that.” She noted that she has a social worker who is in the process of helping her.
Quite shocked at this case of arson during one of the worst wildfire seasons on record in California state history, the judge reprimanded the defendant by reminding her that “obviously, California is burning with a lot of fires that [firefighters and police] are trying to attend to, and I’m very concerned releasing you in light of what’s happening, considering the number of devices you had with you.
“You can’t have any of those devices. We cannot have you setting fires in the state of California,” the court added.
When asked if she is currently on probation, the defendant responded that she is not. ADA Cottam corrected her and said that she is technically on probation for misdemeanors acquired in 2018.
The judge sentenced the defendant to five years of probation, ordering her to stay 300 yards away from the scene of the fire at the intersection of Croydon Way and Mather Field Road in Rancho Cordova, stay away from Centennial Estates Mobile Home Park, pay restitution to JD Management Company, not possess any firearms or ammunition, and not have possession of any incendiary devices at any time for any reason at all.
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