Ivan Geronimo Gomez, 31, was found guilty on 15 felony counts related to his role in starting the Dolan Fire on Aug. 18, 2020, a blaze that burned through 125,000 acres in Big Sur, killed 11 condors and destroyed 20 structures. Superior Court Judge Pamela Butler issued the verdict on Thursday, April 7.
Gomez was charged with two counts of arson, one count of throwing rocks at cars, another count of illegal cannabis cultivation and 11 counts of animal cruelty for the condors lost in the wildfire. One count of aggravated arson was dropped before the trial began on March 28 as part of a deal to waive a jury trial and leave the decision solely up to a judge.
Deputy District Attorney Meredith Sillman, who led the case against Gomez, says Gomez could face up to 24 years behind bars. He is scheduled to be sentenced on May 18.
In the hallway of the courthouse, public defender Michael Belter, who represented Gomez, says, unlike an aggravated arson charge, conviction of a general intent arson crime does not require proof of stable mental condition. Belter worked throughout the six days of the trial to argue that Gomez had a history of methamphetamine use and was under the influence when he confessed to starting the fire after state park rangers picked him up along Highway 1 on Aug. 18, 2020.
This is a developing story, check back later for more updates.
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