Defense Claims Evidence Light, but Judge Orders Trial in Arson Preliminary Hearing


By Ozzy Hernandez

MERCED, CA – A judge in Merced County Superior Court this week ordered a man to be arraigned for trial after a preliminary hearing determined there was enough evidence to charge the accused with a felony arson charge.

Angelo Powers was arrested on Jan. 18 earlier this year for allegedly setting fire to a dumpster behind a Circle K gas station in Merced. He faces additional misdemeanor charges related to the incident and has been in custody ever since his arrest.

Deputy District Attorney Nicole Silveira summoned Merced Police Officer Brain Laguna to the stand. He appeared virtually, and testified he was the first to respond and eventually arrested Powers “three blocks away” from the gas station.

In his testimony, Officer Laguna recalled first interacting with the store clerk, who called 9-1-1. She told the officer a “suspicious man wearing a red shirt, a yellow vest and a white headlamp was setting a dumpster on fire in the alleyway.”

The store clerk also showed the officer the surveillance video where Powers is seen “throwing something into the dumpster and it then catching fire,” said Laguna.

Deputy Public Defender Deborah Perez attempted to sow doubt into Laguna’s testimony by questioning his training and observations on the day of the incident as well as the validity of the store clerk’s description of Powers.

Laguna admitted the clerk did not tell anything more than she saw “a suspicious Black man wearing a red shirt, yellow vest and a white headlamp.”
asked DPD Perez.

In the end, Judge Steven Slocum ruled “there is sufficient cause to believe” the defendant committed these crimes and ordered “he be held to answer.”

Upon his ruling, Powers made an outburst in the court that was swiftly admonished by the judge, who said, “You don’t wanna talk right now, it could be used against you.”

The matter is set for arraignment and trial setting on March 21.


About The Author

Ozzy is a fifth year college student double majoring in Political Science and Performing Arts at CSU Channel Islands. He plans on attending law school and become an attorney. On his free time, he loves to indulge in the theater and embark on outdoor adventures

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