Arson Related Charges Upheld in Preliminary Hearing Despite Some Credibility Questions

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By Alexander Ramirez

WOODLAND, CA – Charges of arson and unlawful possession of fire setting paraphernalia were sustained against suspect Leonid Mikhaylevskiy, seen walking away from a fire, in a preliminary hearing Wednesday here in Yolo County Superior Court. The case is set for trial despite the defense’s question about the credibility of the alleged victim.

Woodland Police Officer Miguel Vega said that on Oct. 3 he responded to a call of a structure on fire on the northwest corner of the intersection of East Street and Main Street, about four blocks from the police department.

Upon arrival, he said that he saw a male suspect walking away from an area with smoke coming from it and identified Mikhaylevskiy in the court as the male suspect.

According to Vega, as Mikhaylevskiy was walking, he could see him walking with “a smile on his face as he looked back to the smoke…”

After pursuing Mikhaylevskiy in his vehicle and searching him, Vega said he found a lighter in Mikhaylevskiy’s pocket, a torch in one of his backpacks, and a glass pipe that is commonly used to smoke crystal methamphetamine.

Mikhaylevskiy was then put in handcuffs and Vega went toward the direction of the smoke. There, a witness was sitting on a brick wall around the area of smoke, and upon seeing the officer, the man pointed at Mikhaylevskiy and said, “That mother****** set my (property) on fire.”

Officer Vega eventually put out the fire using a fire extinguisher present in his vehicle, but there was already a burnt backpack that was apparently the property of the witness.

When it came to defense attorney James Granucci’s cross-examination, he attempted to expose some uncertainties in this otherwise clear case.

Granucci said his client, Mikhaylevskiy, was very cooperative and Vega never explicitly saw him light the fire, never saw the witness try to put out the fire himself even as the fire was growing, and noted the only thing that pointed to Vega thinking the item being burned was a backpack was a zipper he believed he saw.

The officer, said the defense attorney, never looked inside the backpack, showed it to the witness, or checked it into evidence.

When Granucci asked if there was anything that pointed to the backpacks found in Mikhaylevskiy’s possession being his, Vega simply said they were in Mikhaylevskiy’s possession.

There was also a woman that left the scene shortly after Vega came onto the scene, but the officer came up empty when he ran the witness for warrants.

Granucci requested Mikhaylevskiy be charged with reckless burning as opposed to arson.

However, Judge Timothy Fall disagreed that the charge should change to a reckless burning charge, even if the person who made the original statement may have a bit of a credibility issue.

Mikhaylevskiy’s arraignment prior to trial setting was set for Nov. 4.

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About The Author

Alexander Ramirez is a third-year Political Science major at the University of California, Davis. He hopes to hone his writing skills in preparation for the inevitable time of graduation.

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