Friday, July 19, 2024

Ukiah Man Pleads Guilty to Lighting Twelve Fires in August 2020


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

Alberto Vincent Acosta [Mughshot from the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Booking Logs]

With his jury trial scheduled to begin this coming Monday, defendant Alberto Vincent Acosta, age 34, of Ukiah, instead admitted responsibility in the Mendocino County Superior Court Wednesday morning for “willfully and maliciously“ setting a series of fires in and around Ukiah in August 2020.

Originally charged with setting twelve fires, defendant Acosta Wednesday admitted setting fire on August 12, 2020 to two separate inhabited properties while there was a statewide state of emergency in effect. He also admitted setting fire that same day to two separate grassland and wooded properties, again while the same state of emergency was in effect.

In exchange for the dismissal of the other eight counts, the defendant withdrew his previously entered NGI (not guilty by reason of insanity) plea. A psychiatrist and a psychologist had previously examined the defendant and both had concluded that he was insane at the time the fires were set, psychiatric opinions that the DA planned on contesting at trial.

Under California law, a person is considered legally insane and not criminally responsible for his actions if he (1) did not understand the nature of his criminal act(s), or (2) did not understand that what he was doing was morally wrong.

As part of the global resolution, the defendant also stipulated to a court-ordered commitment to state prison of 272 months.

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Because two of the admitted counts are characterized in the California Penal Code as crimes of violence, the defendant’s ability to earn credits towards early release from prison should be limited to no more than 15 percent of the overall sentence, meaning he should be required to serve just over 231 months in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, assuming there is compliance by CDCR with current state law.

Upon the defendant’s eventual release on parole some years down the road, he will also be required to register annually for life with local law enforcement as an arson offender.

After the defendant’s admissions were accepted by the Court, the defendant’s case was referred to the Adult Probation Department for a background study and the preparation of documents necessary to assist the CDCR in its obligation to receive, classify, and assign the defendant to a state prison facility.

The defendant will be back in Department A of the Ukiah courthouse on December 8th at 9 o’clock in the morning for the formal sentencing hearing wherein the stipulated sentence will be imposed. Meanwhile, he remains under lock and key in the protective custody of the Sheriff at the Sheriff’s Low Gap jail facility.

The agencies that investigated and developed the evidence needed to prove the case against the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt were the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office, the Ukiah Valley Fire Authority, and CalFire.

The attorney responsible for prosecuting this defendant has been District Attorney David Eyster. While DA Eyster was away from the office, Senior Deputy District Attorney Scott McMenomey stepped in and handled the change of plea proceedings.

Mendocino County Superior Court Judge Keith Faulder accepted the case resolution Wednesday morning as summarized above and will impose the stipulated sentence on December 8th.

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MendoFever Staff
MendoFever Staff
Editor's Note: Whenever an article's byline reads "MendoFever Staff", the contents of that article were not composed by any of our reporters. Types of writing that will be attributed to "MendoFever Staff" include press releases, letters to the editor, op-eds, obituaries— essentially writing that is not produced by a reporter.

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