Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Mendocino County Man Pleads No Contest to Charges of Committing Arson of an Inhabited Residence in 2019


Booking photo of Derek Steven McCormack [Picture provided by the Mendocino County District Attorney’s Office]

The following is a press release issued by the Mendocino County District Attorney’s Office:

With his jury trial scheduled to commence this coming Monday, defendant Derek Steven McCormack, age 30, of Covelo, chose Thursday afternoon to forego that trial.

Instead, defendant McCormack requested and was granted permission to withdraw his previously-entered not guilty plea and, in its place, he entered a no contest plea to having committed an arson of an inhabited residence, a felony.

Save for being different words, a “no contest” plea to a felony charge is the same as a guilty plea for all purposes.

The defendant also admitted as true a sentencing enhancement that the arson he committed on August 5, 2019 at the Potter Valley family residence of a former girlfriend was committed during a fire state of emergency, as had been declared by the Governor.

The defendant was referred to the Adult Probation Department for a background study and the preparation of a sentencing recommendation.

A sentencing hearing is now scheduled for October 22, 2020 at 9 o’clock in the morning in Department A of the Ukiah courthouse. Any person interested in this defendant or the underlying facts of this case is welcome to attend that hearing. Wearing a mask and social distancing will be required.

The defendant was informed during the change of plea proceedings that he will be ineligible for a grant probation absent a judicial finding of unusual circumstances and a further finding that granting the defendant probation will best serve the interests of justice.

If such findings are made, the defendant could be placed on formal supervised probation for up to 60 months. As a term of formal probation, the defendant could be ordered to serve up to one year in the county jail. He will also be required to register for life as an arson offender. This conviction constitutes a Strike under the Three Strikes law.

If unusual circumstances are not found, the defendant must be denied probation and sentenced to state prison. The presumptive state prison term is 7 years. However, if the court deems the underlying facts and circumstances to be aggravated, the aggravated state prison term is 9 years. If the court deems the underlying facts and circumstances to be mitigated, the mitigated state prison term is 5 years.

The investigating law enforcement agencies were the fire investigators from CALFIRE and the Ukiah Valley Fire Authority, the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office, and the District Attorney’s own investigators. Special thanks are also extended to the People’s retained expert witness, Christopher J. Watt, for his specialized geological analysis

The prosecutor handling this matter is District Attorney David Eyster.

Mendocino County Superior Court Judge Keith Faulder accepted the defendant’s change of plea just before 5 o’clock Thursday afternoon and will preside over the sentencing hearing in October.

Pending sentencing, the defendant remains at liberty on posted bail of $250,000, with stay away and no contacts conditions as terms of that bail.

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  1. Kinda wish this wasn’t so one sided I know Derek he’s a good kid comes from a good family and I kno the case against him, in court he was basically forced to change his plea because the DA said if he took it to trail and lost he would do 24 yrs. he had sent his ex fiancé some emails that where not threatening in anyway! but was facing 13 yrs in county jail for violating the no contact order. He’s never been in trouble for anything in his life! Like I said he’s a good kid and has always been the type of person that would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it! And The DA couldn’t even prove he did it! but the violation of the no contact order they could prove so he was forced to make a choice. What would you do if you where in his Shoes? I wish the media would have the decency to ask him his side of things because maybe then it would show how corrupt the justice system is in Mendocino county!

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Matt LaFever
Matt LaFeverhttps://mendofever.com/
I like to think of myself as a reporter for the Average Joe. Journalism has become a craft defined largely by city dwellers on America's coasts. It’s time to take it back. I have been an Emerald Triangle resident since 2006 and this is year ten in Mendocino County. Please, email me at matthewplafever@gmail.com if you know a story that needs to be told.

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