Prosecutors allowed to withdraw plea in ’02 fire |

Prosecutors allowed to withdraw plea in ’02 fire

CRIPPLE CREEK ” Prosecutors can withdraw a plea agreement for a woman who admitted starting the worst wildfire in the state’s recorded history, opening the door for the case to go trial five years after the blaze destroyed more than 130 homes.

Terry Barton violated the terms of her plea agreement in the 2002 Hayman Fire when she appealed the state’s 12-year sentence, 4th Judicial District Judge Thomas Kennedy ruled Monday.

Kennedy asked both sides to be available for a conference call Feb. 26 to discuss scheduling the case for trial, according to his order.

Deputy Public Defender Mark Walta on Tuesday said he is considering appealing the judge’s decision to the Colorado Supreme Court. He also said he would present Barton any offer from prosecutors.

“There has, as of yet, been no formal offer,” Walta said.

John Newsome, 4th Judicial District attorney and representative of the other three counties where the fire burned, said the only way the agreement would stand is if Barton reaffirms the state sentence. She pleaded guilty to a state felony arson charge.

“We’re trying to preserve the agreement she signed with our predecessors,” Newsome said.

Barton, who admitted setting the fire by burning a letter in a drought-stricken area, is serving a 6-year federal sentence, but her 12-year state sentence was thrown out by the state Appeals Court. She pleaded guilty to a state felony arson charge.

“Terry is ready to move forward,” Walta said. “The idea that she will be incapacitated, probably a number of additional years beyond her federal sentence, doesn’t make much sense to me considering the cost to the taxpayers of Colorado.”

The fire scorched 138,000 acres, destroyed 133 homes and forced more than 8,000 people to leave their home.

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