Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Grassfire charge against El Monte teen girl adds to California chaos

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Aliante Pilla, of El Monte, faces more than 100 charges in connection with starting the blaze An 18-year-old woman has been charged with arson and could face up to two decades in prison for allegedly starting a southern California wildfire that destroyed dozens of homes. An El Monte Police Department affidavit alleges Aliante Pilla, of Aliante, LA, lit a fire in her backyard

on 12 May in violation of her probation. The fire spread to a massive inferno in the hills west of Los Angeles, forcing tens of thousands of people to flee. The so-called Springs Fire destroyed 130 homes and cost $40m (£32m) to fight. Police on Monday said Pilla was arrested in the city of Culver City on 4 July and faces 106 counts of arson with special allegations of causing great bodily injury and more than

$500,000 in damage to structures. They will allege she unlawfully burned 273 acres, an area about the size of 35 football fields, causing damage that wasn’t reimbursed by insurance. She also faces 15 counts of unlawfully burning or transporting a controlled substance for personal use. She could get up to two decades in prison if convicted. Officials said Pilla was dressed for the hot weather when she allegedly lit

the fire near her family’s home, about 5km (3 miles) west of Glendora. “To me she was a grown woman,” Helene Annick, Pilla’s sister-in-law, told CNN about the blaze. “She lit it with abandon.” Pilla was arrested a day after local TV news footage showed a firefighter looking distraught as he approached a blazed-up structure where the words “El Monte Cops” could be seen on a billboard. The firefighter didn’t

immediately comment as he made his way to an ambulance. Pilla’s sentence Pilla’s lawyer Joe Hart says he will vigorously fight the charges, and her alleged motive is “fundamentally misguided”. He says she was suffering from mental health issues and didn’t realise the severity of the situation. “Obviously I’ll want to explore,” he told Reuters, when asked whether he would question whether there was a conspiracy.

“There’s been a lot of scrutiny, and it’s just coming after an 18-year-old innocent woman.” Pilla is being held on $1m (£700,000) bail. Her arraignment has been set for 19 July.

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