Date Mix-Up Results in Postponement of First Sentencing of a Corral Fire Suspect
• Two Other Suspects Slated for Arraignment This Week
BY ANNE SOBLE
BY ANNE SOBLE
A flyer distributed by Operation Recovery, the post-Corral Canyon wildfire self-help group, that had an incorrect date for Monday’s sentencing hearing for one of the five men charged with actions leading to the November 2007 conflagration, resulted in the hearing being delayed until Feb. 19.
Brian David Franks, 28, was due to be sentenced for his role in the fire that was caused by flying embers from an out-of-control bonfire atop Corral, claiming 53 homes and damaging two dozen others.
Van Nuys Superior Court Judge Leslie Dunn said she ordered the delay because the erroneous date, described as a miscommunication, meant that Corral area residents, who have been regularly attending court hearings for the five men, had not been duly noticed.
Dunn said she understands the need for these residents to be a part of the legal process to help them get through their losses.
Franks pleaded no contest last fall to a felony charge of recklessly causing a fire under a condition of high winds and faces five years probation and 300 hours of community service. Some Corral residents are advocating jail time.
The residents have requested and been granted the opportunity to speak at Franks’ sentencing hearing, which is expected to draw major media attention.
Arraignment for Franks’ two co-defendants (the three men are one prosecution case, the other two are charged separately), Brian Alan Anderson, 23, and William Thomas Coppock, 24, is set for Thursday, Jan. 29, at the Van Nuys Courthouse.
The duo in the second case, Eric Matthew Ullman, 19, and Dean Allen Lavorante, 20, are due back in court Feb. 26, when a date is expected to be set for a hearing to determine whether there is enough evidence for the two men to stand trial on the same charges.
Authorities charge that the two groups of men went to a notorious rave cave on state parkland above Corral to drink and party, stoking a bonfire in reckless disregard of the strong winds and low humidity.