August trial scheduled for Forest Service worker
DENVER, Colorado (CNN) -- U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch Friday set an August 26 trial date for Terry Barton, the U.S. Forest Service employee charged with deliberately setting a blaze that erupted into the worst wildfire in Colorado history.
Barton, 38, was still in jail late Friday and had not posted bond set Thursday at $600,000, which means she would have to come up with $60,000 in cash.
Matsch, who presided over the Oklahoma City bombing trials of Timothy McVeigh, who was executed, and Terry Nichols, who is serving a life prison term, met with attorneys for both sides in the case before setting the trial date.
It was Barton, a 20-year veteran with the Forest Service, who first reported an out-of-control fire in the Pike National Forest on June 9 that spread to 137,000 acres, has forced thousands to evacuate their homes and still poses a threat to suburbs south and southwest of Denver.
She later admitted she started it herself, but said it happened by accident when she angrily burned a letter from her estranged husband at an abandoned campfire site.
Investigators, though, determined the fire had been deliberately set and charged she tried to disguise it by staging it to "look like an escaped campfire."
Barton was charged Wednesday in a four-count federal indictment. If convicted, she could be sent to prison for as long as 65 years.
Bond was set at a detention hearing Thursday, against the wishes of prosecutors, but Barton had to agree to stay at a halfway house, not to visit any forest area, refrain from drinking alcohol, submit to drug tests if asked and undergo any mental health or medical examinations deemed necessary by court officials.
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