Plea disposition in works in Lake Christine Fire cases
The Eagle County District Attorney’s Office and the two suspects in the Lake Christine Fire have reached a tentative plea deal that will be unveiled in court today, according to the lead prosecutor.
“It looks like we’re headed toward a disposition in both cases,” Heidi McCollum, assistant district attorney in the 5th Judicial District, said Tuesday.
She declined to discuss specifics of the plea disposition. Both defendants are scheduled to appear at a hearing before Eagle County District Judge Paul Dunkelman.
Richard Miller and Allison Marcus, both 24 and residents of the Roaring Fork Valley, are facing three felony counts of arson and a felony charge of setting fire to woods or prairie.
They were accused of firing tracer ammunition at the Basalt shooting range on the evening of July 3. Those rounds allegedly caused a fire that eventually grew to 12,588 acres, destroyed three homes and caused the evacuations of thousands of people.
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Miller was scheduled to go to trial May 28 and Marcus on June 17. Their attorneys have received several favorable rulings in pre-trial hearings over what evidence can be introduced. Most recently, Dunkelman ruled May 7 that a sign at the shooting range that included wording that tracer rounds weren’t allowed at the shooting range.
Tuesday brought an abrupt reversal in the direction the case was going. Prosecutors said in court last week they would file a petition to the Colorado Supreme Court this week to try to get the decision on the sign overturned. Dunkleman agreed to put a “stay” on legal proceedings in both cases once that petition was filed.
However, McCollum said that motion wasn’t filed Tuesday because of the potential plea disposition.
Stan Garnett, attorney for Marcus, declined comment Tuesday. Josh Maximon, attorney for Miller, couldn’t be reached for comment as of press time.
The DA’s Office has been under pressure from the community to require jail time, community service or both for Miller and Marcus. Restitution also was an issue. The cost of fighting the fire on private, state and federal lands exceeded $20 million and now there are reclamation expenses.
Miller and Marcus would obviously like to get the number of charges reduced and avoid felony convictions.
While details of the plea disposition will be unveiled today, sentencing will be at a later time.