By Lorelei Olivas
MODESTO, CA – Judge Shawn Bessey found Michael Desruissea and Kanisha Brown should stand trial for the fire that occurred in a shed containing a butane honey oil lab on July 18, 2019, in the pair’s preliminary hearing Monday here in Stanislaus County Superior Court.
Desruissea and Brown were arrested back in 2018 under suspicion of arson as well as some drug related charges.
Several witnesses were called during the hearing, including a neighbor, the police officer who responded to the scene, and the fire investigator who determined the cause of the fire.
“My opinion is that there was an active butane honey oil extraction operation taking place, and there was some kind of a leak of butane in that process that was ignited which caused the explosion and the fire,” Paul Spani, the fire investigator, said.
Deputy District Attorney Monroe Tyler charged the explosion and consequent fire was Desruissea and Brown’s fault, while the pair’s attorneys disagreed.
“I don’t think there is any evidence of malice in this case,” Ryan Roth, Desruissea’s attorney, argued.
Robert Forkner, Brown’s attorney, agreed, adding, “There is a legislature (section) created, section 452, regarding arson as a separate and distinct type of crime, which is unlawfully causing a fire, recklessly. They were not maliciously trying to cause a fire or willfully trying to cause a fire,” Forkner said.
DDA Green argued that by willfully engaging in the honey oil extraction lab, Desruissea and Brown knew the risk of a fire was high. He also noted a case that was similar and could, he said, serve as a precedent.
“There is one case, People vs. Muszynski, and in that case, the defendant’s actions were essentially filling a room with gas. The defendant didn’t light the gas on fire, it was lit on fire with a cigarette from another person, but in filling the room with gas, the court ruled that it was sufficient to sustain an arson charge. I believe that this situation is similar,” DDA Green said.
After taking some minutes to decide, Judge Bessey ruled that Desruissea and Brown could be held responsible for the fire and that the case could proceed.
“The actions here, based on that operation and the photos, I’m going to find that it is malicious, and I’m going to find that there is an arson of inhabited property,” Judge Bessey said.