In October of 2012, Brian Irwin of Oakland was arrested for allegedly setting a fire in a trash bin during the celebration following the San Francisco Giants’ World Series win. Irwin was charged with arson and battery on an officer according to news reports at the San Jose Mercury News. Now Irwin, who is 22 years old, has been acquitted of the charges.
Following the win of the World Series by the Giants, Irwin was one of at least nine people charged in vandalism cases. At trial, prosecutors allege that Irwin extended his middle finger and shouted an expletive at police before lighting the contents of a Dumpster on fire. A chase then ensued with police officers ultimately tackling Irwin in bushes in Yerba Buena Gardens. Upon being apprehended, Irwin allegedly spat blood in the face of one of the officers.
The trial lasted two weeks with the testimony of three police officers giving conflicting accounts of the events according to the public defender’s office. Because of the conflicting testimony, it was unclear whether Irwin did light the fire in the Dumpster. Peter Santina, Deputy Public Defender, claimed that following Irwin’s arrest his clothes did not smell like smoke, and that he was not in possession of matches or a lighter. A friend of the defendant’s also testified that while Irwin jumped on the Dumpster in celebration, he did not set the fire. Ultimately, the jury found Irwin not guilty of arson.
Jeff Adachi, also a Public Defender, said in a statement that “There was zero physical evidence that Mr. Irwin lit anything on fire. The charges were based solely on the memories and perceptions of three police officers working under extremely confusing conditions.”
If Irwin had been found guilty of arson and the other charges, he would have been sentenced to up to four years in prison.
Arson is a very serious crime in the state of California. Depending on the circumstances, the criminal penalties for a conviction may include up to nine years in prison and fines of as much as $10,000. The punishment a defendant may face depends on factors such as whether someone was injured as a result of the arson, the type of property involved, and whether a fire was set due to recklessness or deliberately.
The case above demonstrates that individuals accused of a criminal offense are not always found guilty. Without solid evidence to support a conviction and conflicting testimony, the jury did their job in acquitting Mr. Irwin of the charges.
Anyone accused of arson should consult with a Los Angeles arson defense attorney immediately to ensure the best possible outcome.