MADERA COUNTY – A Coarsegold couple accused of multiple counts of arson was back in Madera Superior Court today for a pretrial release hearing.
Allison Waterman has been behind bars since July 29, charged with 10 counts of arson and 1 count of conspiracy. The court considered her evaluation from the Probation Department and heard arguments from her attorney Greg Gross, who asked the judge to release her pending trial.
Gross told Judge Dale Blea that Waterman has no known criminal history or convictions, and based on the report from the Probation Department, is an ideal candidate for a pre-trial release program.
“She can be monitored under some form of supervised release,” Gross told the court. “She does not pose any risk to the public.”
Senior Deputy District Attorney Sally Moreno strongly disagreed.
“These crimes were committed in her back yard,” argued Moreno, who pointed out that even with an ankle monitor, she could walk a few feet to her back door and do it again.
Gross then enumerated the reasons why Waterman would not be a danger to her neighborhood, stating that, “Number one, all the vegetation around her house is already burned out. Second, it’s not fire season, where a fire could really take off. And third, if there was a fire, everybody knows where to go.”
“Worst case scenario,” Gross said, “more brush is burned in the back yard, and she comes back to jail.”
Moreno objected strenuously to this reasoning.
“I couldn’t possibly disagree more,” she told the court. “Fire is inherently dangerous. Fire in her backyard could spread and result in the loss of life.”
To which Gross answered, “If it didn’t happen in July and August, it won’t happen in January and February.”
In handing down his decision, Judge Blea said that Waterman is not employed, so therefore has no job to return to, and she has no medical conditions that place an extra burden on her while incarcerated.
He also noted several important issues that factored into his decision – that the fires were set in a community of significant population and that they spread quickly once ignited, “putting other people’s lives in jeopardy, not only the residents but also the firefighters.”
Judge Blea ruled that, given the circumstances of the crimes, pre-trial release was inappropriate. He also ruled that the bail for both defendants would remain as set, $500,000 for Waterman and $1,000,000 for Jackson.
On Nov. 12, both defendants were arraigned on the charges handed down after the preliminary hearing which concluded on Nov. 4.
Originally, only Waterman was charged with the 10 counts for fires that occurred around their house on East Revis Circle, and Jackson with 21 counts for fires ranging from Yosemite Lakes Park to Oakhurst, including one 91-acre fire that destroyed a home off Big River Way.
At the conclusion of the preliminary hearing, the prosecution asked that Jackson be held to answer on all 31 charges, adding 10 to the previous count, and the judge granted that motion.
Jackson also faces one count of resisting arrest, one count of assault on a peace officer, and one count of conspiracy.
Both defendants will be back in court on Dec. 13 for a trial confirmation. At that time, Jackson’s attorney will also present his request for pre-trial release.
The trial is set to begin on Dec. 17.