Suspect confesses to Corral Fire involvement

Prosecutors will ask for a sentence of five years probation and 300 hours community service when Brian David Franks appears in court next month.

By Jonathan Friedman / Assistant Editor

Brian David Franks, one of the five men accused of starting last November’s Corral Fire, changed his plea last week on Wednesday in Van Nuys Superior Court from not guilty to no contest on a felony charge of recklessly causing a fire. He became the first suspect in the case to admit participation in the November fire.

The attorney for Franks, 28, read a statement in court from his client stating that he, along with fellow Los Angeles residents Brian Alan Anderson, 23, and William Thomas Coppock, 24, rekindled an abandoned campfire in a well-known party area on top of Corral Canyon known as The Cave in the early hours of Nov. 24. Embers from the fire led to Malibu’s most destructive blaze since 1993.

Prosecutors said they would ask for five years probation and 300 hours community service when Franks appears before Van Nuys Superior Court Judge Leslie Dunn on Nov. 3 for sentencing. As part of a plea deal, Franks has agreed to testify against the other four suspects.

Coppock and Anderson, who pled not guilty in December, are scheduled to appear in court on Oct. 17 for a preliminary hearing.

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The other two suspects, Culver City residents Eric Matthew Ullman, 19, and Dean Allen Lavorante, 20, are due in court on Nov. 13 for an arraignment. Their arraignment has been delayed several times. The Culver City residents are accused of having originally started the campfire. According to Anderson’s confession, the fire had been extinguished before he and his friends arrived. The attorneys for Ullman and Lavorante said in August they have been in discussions with the prosecution about a possible deal.

“They have been in good faith on both sides,” said Lavorante’s attorney, Ben W. Pesta II, in August.

The Corral Fire, which burned 4,900 acres, destroyed 53 homes, 37 vehicles and a mobile home. Another 45 structures, including 33 homes, were damaged. Six firefighters were injured, with one receiving second-degree burns to the face.

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