We still don't know what the prosecution's theory is in the ignition of the Caldor Fire in August, but the father and son accused of starting it are now free on drastically reduced bail.
It was some surprising news last week when we learned that 32-year-old Travis Shane Smith and his dad, 66-year-old David Scott Smith, had been arrested and were facing arson charges for starting the devastating Caldor Fire four months ago. The fire had broken out in a rural area of El Dorado County on August 14 and quickly grew by tens of thousands of acres per day, ultimately forcing the evacuation of South Lake Tahoe amid threatening winds.
On Monday, as the Sacramento Bee reports, a judge in Placerville ruled in favor of the suspects' defense attorneys, and drastically reduced their bail amounts — which had initially been set at $1 million each. The younger Smith's bail was reduced to $50,000, and the elder Smith's bail was reduced to $25,000.
"These men want to come to court and to clear their names," said attorney Linda Parisi, who is representing the David Smith. "This is the community they live in, the community they love."
Parisi and Travis Smith's attorney, Mark Reichel, succeeded in convincing the judge to lower the bond amounts for both men because they had no criminal record and there was no evidence of ill intent. Also, they said, their families live in the area and they are not a flight risk.
As the Associated Press reports, prosecutor Nora Hall argued that the potential prison sentences for both men of at least 12 years was reason enough for them to potentially flee.
We are also now learning, via their charges, what the prosecution may believe sparked the blaze. The Smiths have both been charged with recklessly starting a fire and illegal possession of a silencer. Travis Smith has also been charged with illegal conversion or manufacture of a machine gun — and here might be the key to what the men were up to on August 14 in the moments before a wildfire began, in an area east of Omo Ranch.
The prosecution has not laid out their theory, as Reichel tells the Associated Press, and both men say they are innocent.
Travis Smith was the first to dial 911 to call in a report of the fire — and he did so repeatedly as his call kept getting dropped in the remote area.
Witnesses have reportedly said they spotted the Smiths in a dune buggy in the vicinity of where the fire began.