Farmers and the community are frustrated with how long it's taking to seek justice - News 11's Vanessa Gongora reports
BRAWLEY, Calif. (KYMA, KECY) - On the morning of June 20th, a 57-year-old man who allegedly set multiple haystacks on fire throughout Imperial County, had his preliminary readiness court hearing after getting arrested on April 24 2022.
At the first hearing on May 23, the suspect's defense asked Judge Monica Lepe-Negrete for the preliminary hearing to be pushed back because there are mental health records she would like to access.
The arson fires suspect has been identified as Eriberto Saucedo Delgado and is currently in custody with charges of felony for multiple counts of arson.
In today's hearing, the suspect's defense said she needs more time for the preliminary readiness conference because there is some information missing needed for discovery. The prosecutor agreed that there are in fact some issues with the discovery.
Discovery enables the parties to know before the preliminary hearing begins what evidence may be presented. Both sides collect and exchange information about the case and prepare.
"I mean I think this case could possibly resolve. Just if I can get all the information about what occurred, what statements my client may or may not have said, et cetera and get with the district attorney and/or the court. I think we might be able to come to a resolution," said the suspect's defense attorney.
Due to the insufficient evidence, Judge Lepe-Negrete has pushed back the preliminary readiness hearing to June 23 2022 to provide the evidence they will have for the preliminary hearing set on July 25th 2022, but is subject to change.
Judge Lepe-Negrete expects the prosecution to be ready with necessary findings.
"Responses to missing discovery and whether or not there's going to be an offer. If there's not going to be an offer simply state it. If there is then we expect it to be provided to the defense and the court in written form" says Judge Lepe-Negrete.
Farmers and their families attended the court hearing today and are frustrated with how long the process is taking to seek justice.
Debbie Abatti, wife of farmer Alex Abatti who has owned a farm for over 25 years, says the suspect's actions effect everyone.
"There is a man here that has burned down the Imperial Valley, the haystacks, the farmers that go out there and work and slave so that people can have food on the table," said Abatti. "This person went out there and just maliciously burned down stacks for no reason. I feel bad for the families involved in this. I feel bad for our children."
Abatti says she wants the suspect behind bars for a very long time.
"It's taking so long and I want this to be done. This man needs to go to jail. There is no other recourse for what he's done. There's no excuse and that's my frustration," says Abatti. "A slap on the wrist is I believe that our courts take it lightly. I believe this man needs to go to jail for a very long time and a statement needs to be made here in the Imperial Valley. Three years is not enough. In my opinion, ten years is not enough."
Bryan Wray, Chairman of the "Burn a Bale, Go to Jail" campaign says a lot of families are being punished for the suspect's actions.
"He needs to serve justice and also he needs to be set as an example. Young kids, they don't really see the consequences in burning a bale. They need to see the consequences. They need to see this older gentleman serving time and so maybe they don't want to do that. Maybe they're educated not to do that," says Wray. "It's very frustrating and things need to happen sooner than later."