Corral Fire starters sentenced to one year in jail

Two other defendants will appear in court on Oct. 20 for a pretrial conference

By Jonathan Friedman / The Malibu Times

Brian Alan Anderson, 25, and William Thomas Coppock, 26, were sentenced last week Thursday to a year in county jail for their involvement in the November 2007 Corral Fire, which destroyed 53 homes, injured five firefighters and burned nearly 5,000 acres.

Anderson and Coppock have served approximately 100 days in jail, which will count toward their sentence.

Van Nuys Superior Court Judge Susan Speer also placed the men on five years formal probation and ordered them to complete 500 hours of community service and to write letters of apology to the victims who lost their homes and to the firefighters who were injured. The judge also sentenced Anderson and Coppock to four years in state prison, but suspended the sentence. In addition, the men must pay $7.7 million in restitution for the fire fighting costs alone. A full restitution hearing is scheduled for Oct. 20.

Anderson and Coppock pleaded no contest in June to one count each of recklessly causing a fire with great bodily injury and recklessly causing a fire to an inhabited structure. They pleaded “open to the court,” which means it was not part of a negotiated settlement with the District Attorney’s Office.

The sentencing was applauded by Beverly Taki, head of Operation Recovery, a group of Corral Canyon fire victims and other residents who banded together shortly after the fire. She wrote in an e-mail to fellow members that “this has been a journey for all of us in Malibu.”

“This is somewhat of a culmination of our neighborhood efforts,” Taki wrote. “I believe with all my heart that these defendants would have gotten no jail time if it weren’t for our committed efforts.”

Two other defendants, Dean Allen Lavorante and Eric Matthew Ullman, will return to court Oct. 20 to face charges stemming from the fire. A fifth man, Brian David Franks, entered a no contest plea in 2008 and was sentenced to five years probation and 300 hours of community service.

The fire originated at a popular hangout area known as The Cave on state parkland at the top of Corral Canyon. An illegal campfire was started and embers from the fire sparked flames on the dry hillsides, which were fueled by roaring Santa Ana winds. Detectives found at the scene alcohol containers, food wrappers and bundled fire logs, which they were able to trace to the three guilty men and the two suspects.

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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