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District Attorney’s Office Releases Limited Prosecution Documents in Arson Case

Businesses along 1600 Park Street gutted by fire, September 28, 2014. (File photo.)

Businesses along 1600 Park Street gutted by fire, September 28, 2014. (File photo.)

The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office has released limited documents in response to an Action Alameda News public records request for discovery documents in the criminal case regarding the September 28th arson fires in Alameda.

In November, Action Alameda News had requested “copies of all discovery documents turned over to the defense attorney for Stephen Michael Peterson (sic) in the case of the People of the State of California v. Stephen Michael Peterson (sic) and Andrew Resto Gutierrez, complaint number 599884, September 30, 2014.”

Both Petersen and Gutierrez had been arrested and charged in relation to a string of fires in and around Park Street in Alameda in the early hours of Sunday, September 28th, but charges against Petersen were subsequently dropped.

Petersen’s friends and family adamantly denied his involvement and took to the news media and social media to defend and support him.

Although Action Alameda News had requested only “documents turned over to Mr. Petersen’s defense attorney, and not documents specifically pertaining to Mr. Gutierrez’s prosecution,” the district attorney’s office provided probable cause for warrantless arrest declarations for both cases.

The City of Alameda had previously refused to identify the police department and fire department personnel that identified Petersen as a suspect; those names are included in the declarations provided by the district attorney’s office.

However, the district attorney’s office declined to provide any other records, with Michael O’Connor, Assistant District Attorney, Custodian of the Record, writing, “the remaining documents that have been provided [through discovery] are investigative documents such as police reports and fire investigations. These documents are not public records.”

O’Connor cited California Government Code section 6254(f), Evidence Code section 1040 and several sections of the Penal Code to support exemption of the records from disclosure.

Petersen and Guitierrez probable cause declarations.

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