Clarity may come in criminal cases against Lake Christine Fire suspects next month |

Clarity may come in criminal cases against Lake Christine Fire suspects next month

Richard Miller, cenrer, and Allison Marcus, second from right, listen with their attorneys to Assistant District Attorney Heidi McCollum, left, after an appearence Tuesday in Eagle County Court. Miller and Marcus are facing charges in connection to the Lake Christine Fire.
Scott Condon/The Aspen Times

The attorneys for the couple accused by police of starting the Lake Christine Fire indicated Tuesday in Eagle County Court that prospects remain to resolve the cases without trials.

Josh Maximon, the attorney for Richard Miller, told Eagle County Judge Rachel Olguin-Fresquez he had gone through most of the “voluminous discovery” from the Eagle County District Attorney’s Office since a hearing in August. Maximon said the parties “can work on a resolution” to the case now.

Stan Garnett, the attorney for Allison Marcus, expressed similar sentiments. He asked that Marcus’ case be continued to a later date in Eagle County Court for a possible disposition.

Both cases were continued until Nov. 20 at 10:30 a.m.

Marcus and Miller, both 23, each are facing three charges of fourth-degree arson, a Class 4 felony, and setting fire to woods or prairie, a Class 6 felony.

Assistant District Attorney Heidi McCollum was present in court but made no comment. She didn’t object to continuing the cases in Eagle County Court.

If the parties cannot reach a plea bargain and the cases proceed to trial, it would be bumped up to Eagle County District Court, per the 5th Judicial District’s policy on felony cases.

Bruce Brown, district attorney for the 5th Judicial District, said last week it could take several months to resolve the cases. He was noncommittal on whether his office would consider a plea bargain. It is the office’s general policy not to arrange plea bargains with parties who allegedly violate fire restrictions, he said.

“If a case has no legal infirmities, I would tend not to do any plea bargaining,” he said. He wouldn’t comment on whether he feels the cases against Miller and Marcus have “legal infirmities.”

The couple was allegedly shooting tracer ammunition at the Basalt State Wildlife Area’s shooting range in late afternoon July 3. That type of ammunition is always prohibited at the range. A stage 2 fire restriction was in place throughout the White River National Forest and in Eagle and Pitkin counties at the time. The restriction doesn’t prohibit using guns for target practice or hunting.

Tracer rounds allegedly started a fire in brush off to the side of the berm that’s built up behind the targets at the rifle range. The Lake Christine Fire eventually grew to 12,566 acres and destroyed three homes, a barn and an outbuilding.

Also making a court appearance Tuesday was Craig Miller, Richard’s father. He was charged July 25 with second-degree burglary, second-degree trespassing and two counts of menacing for his alleged actions on July 14, when Eagle County deputies came to his house in Missouri Heights after receiving a tip that Richard Miller and Marcus were at the home.

Craig Miller allegedly became upset that someone tipped the police and he ran to a neighbor’s house to question them.

Craig Miller had spoken to a detective with the Sheriff’s Office about his son and Marcus turning themselves in the following Monday, according to a police report. He felt that agreement had been violated.

In a brief appearance Tuesday, Miller’s attorney Michael Fox asked that the case be transferred to Eagle County District Court. The judge approved the request and a Nov. 14 appearance was set.

Fox declined to discuss the case but provided a statement that read, “Mr. Miller vehemently denies engaging in any criminal behavior on July 14, 2018. We look forward to clearing his name and telling his side of the story at trial.”