Three men plead not guilty to causing Malibu wildfire

Three men plead not guilty to causingMalibu wildfire

22  December 2007

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LOS ANGELES (AP) – Three men have pleaded not guilty to causing a wildfire that destroyed 50 homes in Malibu, California, last month.

The three, all in their 20s, have been charged with recklessly causing a blaze that swept through 4,000 acres of Malibu canyon land. Six firefighters were hurt battling the blaze. Fifty homes and 35 other buildings were destroyed.

They each could face more than ten years in prison if convicted.

Arson investigators said food wrappers and logs in a location known as a favorite partying spot for young people led them to determine an illegal campfire was the cause.

Outside the court, defense lawyers said the men were being made scapegoats by the community.

Inside the court, the judge, who lives in Malibu, took the unusual step of denying that his neighbors had pressured him.

A preliminary hearing to determine whether there is enough evidence for a trial is set for next month.

Two teenagers are also facing the same charges and will be arraigned in February.

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