Walnut Creek optometrist denies arson

September 25, 2009 8:38:47 PM PDT
An optometrist accused of setting four fires at businesses in Walnut Creek denied the charges during a court appearance in Martinez today and said he did not belong in jail.

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Scott Weinberg, 51, of Walnut Creek, was charged today with two counts of arson and two counts of arson of an inhabited building for fires at a Westamerica Bank branch, a Wendy's restaurant and two at Comcast's headquarters, Deputy District Attorney Dominique Yancey said. The fire at Wendy's and one of the fires at Comcast, which both happened Wednesday night, were allegedly set while people were in the buildings.

The second fire at the Comcast building happened early Thursday morning and was the only one that caused major damage.

Andrew Johnson, vice president of communications for Comcast, said the fire caused extensive damage to the business's administration offices and left 40,000 customers without cable or Internet service for about two and a half hours.

The network operations building was up and running Thursday and services were restored to customers, but the administration building may remain closed for several months while repairs are made, Johnson said.

Weinberg has also been charged with resisting arrest, felony possession of a deadly weapon for allegedly having brass knuckles, and a misdemeanor charge of petty theft for allegedly stealing lawn ornaments, Yancey said.

Weinberg's bail has been set at $1.4 million.

"Please don't put me in jail. I'm a doctor. I don't belong in jail. I smoked a cigarette," Weinberg said, possibly suggesting that the fires were started accidentally.

Weinberg asked the judge to release him to his son and place him on house arrest, but the judge denied the request, saying he believed Weinberg was a threat to the community.

Police also claimed in their report that Weinberg was a potential flight risk. Yancey said Weinberg might be mentally ill.

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