BRAWLEY — Following months of sporadic structure fires in the downtown area, a 15-year-old and three 14-year-old boys were arrested by the local police department April 18 for suspicion of arson.
The charges against the juveniles included arson, conspiracy to commit arson, conspiracy to commit commercial burglary and commercial burglary, according to the department.
The four teenagers were expected to be charged as minors, given they were ineligible to be tried as adults based on the charges.
“Arson of an inhabitable building, meaning a house, or arson that causes great bodily injury are two crimes which would allow juveniles to be tried as adults. Juveniles can also be tried as adults when they are 16,” Assistant District Attorney Deborah Owen said during a press conference at the time.
“It does not appear that any of those circumstances apply. We will be looking at everything when we make the charging decision, but that looks like what we have right now,” she explained.
It was also noted that because juveniles were involved, the specifics of the case would not be released to the media or public.
“It is really important to understand with juvenile offenders we cannot release names, and those are proceedings that are not open to the public,” Owen explained during the conference.
Owen also maintained that juvenile law is written with the primary purpose of rehabilitation rather than punishment.
A week after the teen’s arrest, the police department arrested 20-year-old Brawley resident Fernando Garcia on suspicion of arson in regards to a rash of seven suspicious trash and trash bin fires.
During the course of the Dumpster fires investigation, video evidence that was obtained provided investigators with a photograph of the alleged arsonist, which positively matched the description of Garcia.
Garcia was placed under arrest and booked into the Imperial County jail April 25 for suspicion of arson.
Since his arrest, Garcia has undergone a preliminary examination, which determined he would be standing trial on two counts of arson in Brawley.
Superior Court Judge Donal Donnelly made the final decision in the case May 21, deciding that it is plausible, based on the direct and substantial evidence, that Garcia may have committed the two counts of arson and further motioned his case to be decided through a trial court.
Donnelly also denied a bail reduction for Garcia, leaving his bail set at $50,000.
Pleading not guilty to the charges, Garcia’s defense attorney, Raj Paul Singh of Childers and Associates, had argued that the county prosecutor lacked plausible cause to connect Garcia to two Dumpster fires, given that the prosecutor did not present any evidence directly showing Garcia’s involvement in the fires.
In response Imperial County Deputy District Attorney George Marquez explained that the evidence obtained through a search warrant of Garcia’s bedroom suggests he had a malicious state of mind and proves he had an interest in fires.
Some of the evidence allegedly found in the bedroom included fire-related photos, as well as before and after photos of Brawley structure fires.
Garcia’s computer also revealed downloaded photos, articles and film footage from the Imperial Valley Press’ coverage of structure fires in the city, as well as other video clips that prosecutors suspect to have been taken by Garcia.