MALIBU — On June 2, two men pleaded no contest to causing the 2007 Corral Fire in Malibu, according to the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office. The blaze had damaged and destroyed 58 residences, injured six firefighters and burned nearly 5,000 acres.
Brian Alan Anderson, 24, and William Thomas Coppock, 26, entered their pleas in Van Nuys Superior Court before Judge Susan Speer, who ordered that they undergo a 90-day evaluation by the state Department of Corrections, according to Deputy District Attorney Frances Young. The two men are to surrender on June 9.
Both defendants pleaded no contest to one count each of recklessly causing a fire with great bodily injury and recklessly causing a fire to an inhabited structure. The men pleaded open to the court, so it was not part of a negotiated settlement with the D.A.’s office.
Anderson and Coppock had been included in two groups of young people who visited a cave at the top of a Malibu hillside on November 24, 2007. Anderson and Coppock had been in the group that showed up some time after the first group built a campfire in the cave and left. Prosecutors had argued at the time that the fire was not accidental because the governor had recently posted an explicit emergency warning that the area was high-risk and prone to fires. The torrid Santa Ana winds had whipped across the tinder dry hillside area at speeds of 50 mph on the day the Corral fire was started. Neither the defendants nor the others with them notified authorities of the fire, according to investigators.
If the defendants receive a favorable report following the 90-day review, they may be ordered to serve one year in county jail, complete community service and be placed on five years of probation. However, if the report recommends prison, the two men may receive up to four years in state prison.
Anderson and Coppock are scheduled to return to court on September 9, for their sentencing. A restitution hearing will be scheduled for the defendants later in the year.