Caldor Fire suspects appear in court, date set for preliminary exam

Ashleigh Goodwin / Tahoe Daily Tribune

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — The father and son accused of sparking the Caldor Fire appeared in Placerville court on Sept. 30 and will have another appearance for preliminary examination on Oct. 11.

David and Travis Smith, ages 66 and 32, respectively, at the time of their arrests, face several charges for allegedly starting the fire that burned more than 346 square miles, which is just under the size of San Diego.

The Smiths are charged with three felonies apiece with four enhancements on each felony. 

Travis Smith has been charged with two additional felonies, one each for possession of a silencer and a machine gun conversion. David Smith similarly has an additional felony charge for possessing a silencer. 

After nearly a year of pre-preliminary hearings the two defendants will appear in court for the preliminary examination on Oct. 11.

According to the Department of Justice website, preliminary hearing is like a “mini-trial.” 

During the preliminary examination the prosecution will call witnesses to the stand, introduce evidence, and in turn, the defense can cross-examine witnesses. 

The DOJ website explains, “The defense cannot object to using certain evidence, and in fact, evidence is allowed to be presented at a preliminary hearing that could not be shown to a jury at trial.”

Once the hearing is completed the judge concludes whether there is probable cause to believe the crime was committed by the defendant or not. If probably cause is found a trial will be scheduled. 

In the event the judge does not believe the evidence does not reach the level of probable cause, the defendant’s charges may be dismissed.

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