Homeless man pleads not guilty to arson

August 14, 2008 11:55:43 AM PDT
A transient accused of starting a three-alarm grass fire that burned more than 7 acres near Half Moon Bay in June pleaded not guilty this morning in San Mateo County Superior Court.

The defendant, Michael Denone Taylor, 47, is charged with one felony count of causing fire to a structure or forestland. He is ineligible for probation because he has three prior offenses, according to the district attorney's office.

The San Mateo County Sheriff's Office received reports of black smoke near the 12000 block of San Mateo Road in the Spanish Town area around 4:50 p.m. on June 10.

The blaze grew to three alarms and burned between 7 and 10 acres in the hills near state Highway 92 along the eastern edge of Half Moon Bay, fire officials said. The fire was controlled around 8 p.m. that day.

No property was damaged and no injuries were reported as a result of the fire, according to the sheriff's office.

Taylor was reportedly living in a nearby homeless encampment. He was arrested for a probation violation unrelated to the fire and was later interviewed regarding the blaze, according to the sheriff's office.

He allegedly gave inconsistent statements about how the fire started and was arrested on suspicion of arson, according to the district attorney's office.

Taylor was on probation for prior acts of vandalism, the district attorney's office reported.

Taylor remains in custody on $50,000 bail and is set to return to court Oct. 20 for a pretrial conference.


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