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PG&E Zogg Fire Hearings: Day 7 | Blog Updates

Updates on the Zogg Fire hearings on Wednesday, Feb. 1 from Shasta County Superior Court.

REDDING, Calif. — ABC10 is in court, where day 7 of PG&E’s Zogg Fire manslaughter hearing is underway. To catch up on day 6 of coverage, click HERE.

This blog will be updated as the court hearing continues.

4:04 p.m. PST

That's probable cause for Felony Counts 1-7, Misdemeanor Counts 11, 12, 15, and 17, and a handful of enhancements for several of those counts. Arraignment for PG&E is set for the morning of February 15.

3:07 p.m. PST

PG&E will not be called to answer for felonies for the Ponder, Woody, and Daniel Fires.

3:06 p.m. PST

BREAKING: Shasta County Superior Court finds probable cause to bind PG&E over for trial for manslaughter and several other felonies in the Zogg Fire.

3:01 p.m. PST

We are about to reach the end of the PG&E manslaughter hearing. The McLeod family is waiting to hear if PG&E can go to trial for the deaths of 2 in their family.

Credit: ABC10 / Tyler Horst
McLeod family members wait to hear if PG&E will go to trial for the deaths of two family members.

2:32 p.m. PST

We’re in recess. Judge says he will be back at 3:00pm to issue his ruling in the PG&E manslaughter hearing.

2:23 p.m. PST

A man identifying himself as a victim attorney just stood up requesting judicial notice of a violation of PG&E's probation. Judge says he has no standing. Neither DA nor defense is requesting such notice. He sits back down.

2:22 p.m. PST

Some back and forth about enhancements and which counts they apply to. Judge now prepared for a ruling after a "brief recess."

2:06 p.m. PST

Frazier rests. Judge now asking follow-up questions of the DA about the Ponder, Daniel, and Woody fires.

2:05 p.m. PST

PG&E employee Ken Loomis had recommended changing PG&E's practices or procedures for hazard trees. To change PG&E's policies, you would have to "spend more money," Frazier says.

2:02 p.m. PST

Frazier says it doesn't matter what the tree may have looked like before the fire. That's not in evidence. What is in evidence, he says, is that it was a "hazard tree."

2:01 p.m. PST

Lots of talk about the Hazard Tree Rating System (HTRS), which we heard about only briefly during the hearing, which Frazier says shows that a Level 2 inspection of a tree was supposed to include a 360-degree walk around the base.

1:55 p.m. PST

"They assumed things would be done. They assumed things would be caught again," Frazier says about the work of PG&E's contractors on Zogg Mine Road, leaving "time bombs in the forest." It's not just criminally negligent, it's "callous," he says.

1:52 p.m. PST

PG&E is so large that it effectively "sets the industry standard," Frazier argues. PG&E has a monopoly over most of Northern California, larger than some states.

1:49 p.m. PST

DA atty Frazier now up: the court should recognize the "misconduct, ignorance, and malfeasance" he says PG&E has demonstrated and led to four deaths in the Zogg Fire.

1:47 p.m. PST

On misdemeanmor counts for failure to comply with utility regulations, charging that PG&E did not act in good faith to comply, Cravis says PG&E "acted reasonable" and without negligence or recklessness. Says it's at the heart of this case. Rests.

1:44 p.m. PST

On misdemeanor counts for "Kindling Fires," atty Cravis says this is intended for devices like "barbecues" and not relevant.

1:42 p.m. PST

Now Defense going into misdemeanor counts on failing to maintain a fire break, which we've heard very little about in this case, again says the prosecution does not have the evidence to prove them.

1:37 p.m. PST

"No evidence" even of contact between trees and PG&E's power lines in the Daniel Fire, Cravis says, and that PG&E was not aware of any "red flags" for vegetation in that area before that fire.

1:34 p.m. PST

PG&E atty Cravis is detailing PG&E's defense of the felonies for the Ponder, Daniel, and Woody Fires. Again: "zero evidence" of crimes in those small fires

1:23 p.m. PST

We are about to come back for next and likely final session of the PG&E manslaughter hearing... 

12:25 p.m. PST

It’s looking a lot like the PG&E manslaughter hearing will end this afternoon.

12:02 p.m. PST

After noon recess, PG&E atty Cravis will briefly address the Daniel, Ponder, and Woody fires. We are breaking now.

12:02 p.m. PST

"I know this is a probable cause standard," says Brian, but "the evidence here is undisputed" that if a mistake was made, PG&E committed no crimes in the Zogg Fire.

11:53 a.m. PST

Tree inspections "are a matter of judgment," Brian says, and the industry standard is not to walk around every tree with a lean.

11:50 a.m. PST

Now on Loomis's testimony, PG&E atty Brian says Loomis testified that preventing wildfire was a "top priority" at PG&E, says the power shutoffs (PSPS) are evidence of that. The line that started the Zogg Fire was not shut off when high winds knocked the tree into it.

11:40 a.m. PST

PG&E legal team has been using a powerpoint and boil down a key part of their argument here: "Mistakes Are Not Crimes"

Credit: ABC10 / Tyler Horst
An argument made in a PG&E PowerPoint deck used during the Zogg manslaughter hearing.

11:37 a.m. PST

Brian says its possible contractors like Lacunza and Morefield could have made mistakes in their work, but those mistakes do not amount to crimes committed by those contractors nor by PG&E.

11:31 a.m. PST

Now the defense getting into the issue of the resident of Zogg Mine Road who allegedly threatened tree crews, "brandishing" a firearm, in 2018. This is supposedly part of the reason PG&E at least temporarily stopped the post-Carr Fire tree work before the next routine inspection.

11:25 a.m. PST

Brian references the photo--that the prosecution "loves to put up"--of the subject tree stood up showing a large cavity and says the tree would not have looked like that prior to the Zogg Fire.

11:23 a.m. PST

Brian says the difference between Level 1 and Level 2 inspections is a "red herring" in this case. Says neither PG&E nor its contractors missed the tree on purpose.

11:17 a.m. PST

"The People have failed" to introduce any evidence of recklessness or negligence on PG&E's part, says defense atty Brad Brian.

11:16 a.m. PST

PG&E legal starting its arguments now. Say the Zogg Fire was a "tragedy" but not a crime.

11:15 a.m. PST

Hanna reiterates the gravity of the Zogg Fire and rests.

11:14 a.m. PST

Hanna briefly detours into the Daniel, Ponder, and Woody fires, noting though there's a "lesser extent" of evidence for those, but the prosecution believes they show a pattern of behavior that PG&E "failed to do what it needed to do" and trees failed into lines.

11:05 a.m. PST

Hanna argues PG&E knew there was a "disconnect" between their safety procedures and actual practice and chose not to solve the problem. "Now four people are dead" and many lives affected, he says.

11:02 a.m. PST

PG&E does not "practice what they preach" on safety, Hanna says, referencing employee Ken Loomis's warning to the company about the consequences of failing to cut down hazard trees, in the years just before the Zogg Fire.

10:53 a.m. PST

"A 'speak up culture' only works if you listen to the people that speak up," Hanna says, referencing testimony from PG&E employees about a "speak up culture" at the company where they said they welcome/encourage feedback internally about safety concerns.

10:52 a.m. PST

"Four times" the route was walked after the Carr Fire and the tree was never removed, Hanna says. Evidence shows it is "very likely" that contractor Larry Lacunza also marked the tree. PG&E's employees/contractors had ample opportunity to remove a risk and "they blew it," he says.

10:45 a.m. PST

Family of victims in the court room get emotional when Hanna talks about the loss of life in the Zogg Fire. PG&E had a "legal duty" to the victims, he says.

10:43 a.m. PST

Hanna citing public resource codes 4292 and 4293 which say utilities like PG&E have a legal duty to cut trees that could fall into lines. "That's this tree right here," he says, indicating the gray pine that struck the power lines and started the Zogg Fire. 

Credit: ABC10 / Tyler Horst
Shasta County Chief Deputy DA Ben Hanna on day 7 of the PG&E Zogg Fire manslaughter hearing.


10:36 a.m. PST

PG&E's failures were not simply mistakes, Hanna says. "They were systemic and they were individual."

10:33 a.m. PST

"This was a crime," Hanna goes on. Says the DA has proved that PG&E was criminally negligent and reckless in starting the Zogg Fire. It doesn't matter how many thousands of trees they have to remove every year. "The consequences for failure are just too high."

10:31 a.m. PST

Chief Deputy DA Ben Hanna begins closing argument for the prosecution: "This fire did not have to happen."

10:15 a.m. PST

Judge makes some preliminary comments first, just housekeeping stuff like reminding counsel to watch the pace of their arguments so the court reporter can keep up. We're in break now.

10:08 a.m. PST

We're finished with the exhibits. Shasta County DA now preparing for their closing argument.

9:56 a.m. PST

Select passages of 69 & 70 being admitted. These 3 exhibits are documents from federal judge William Alsup's court, regarding some of the testimony we've heard from PG&E employees and contractors. Judge Alsup oversaw PG&E's probation. Our past reporting: 

9:38 a.m. PST

The McLeod family is here today. In the middle is Zach McLeod, whose wife Alaina and 8-year-old daughter Feyla died in the Zogg Fire.

Credit: ABC10 / Tyler Horst
The family of Alaina and 8-year-old daughter Feyla McLeod, who died in the 2020 Zogg Fire.

9:31 a.m. PST

And we're back. Exhibit 68 is received into evidence without objection. DA Hanna is now taking the judge through what he's marked in 69 and 70.

9:17 a.m. PST

After yesterday's ruling on the air pollution charges, here are the updated counts in the PG&E manslaughter hearing.

Credit: ABC10 / Tyler Horst
The remaining charges against P&E on day 7 of the Zogg Fire manslaughter hearing.

9:10 a.m. PST

We're taking an early break. The judge says the exhibits in question are large documents with a "significant amount of surplus" information and has asked Chief Deputy DA Ben Hanna to mark what's significant during a brief recess.

9:04 a.m. PST

The day starts with Exhibits 68, 69, and 70. We've heard some about each of them when they were introduced for identification, but never admitted.

8:46 a.m. PST

Good morning from Redding. Today in the PG&E manslaughter hearing for the Zogg Fire the prosecution expects to rest its case and PG&E’s defense will begin.

Credit: ABC10 / Tyler Horst
Outside the courtroom where the PG&E Zogg Fire manslaughter hearing is being held in Redding, CA.

WATCH MORE: In wildfire crisis, California's government protects PG&E

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