A federal grand jury indicted former college instructor Gary Stephen Maynard for arson on Thursday as prosecutors accused him of starting four fires over the summer near California firefighters who were battling the massive Dixie Fire.
The five-count indictment was announced via a press release on Thursday from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California.
The indictment alleges Maynard, 47, of San Jose, carried out the arson spree in the area of the Dixie Fire near Shasta Trinity National Forest and Lassen National Forest. Some of the fires Maynard allegedly started were behind firefighters who were combatting the Dixie blaze.
The Dixie Fire began on July 13 and was finally contained on October 30, according to the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG). It was the second-largest wildfire in the history of California, the Associated Press (AP) reports.
Maynard allegedly started “the Cascade Fire (July 20), the Everitt Fire (July 21), the Ranch Fire (Aug. 7), and the Conard Fire (Aug. 7),” according to the Justice Department.
The AP reports U.S. Forest Service agents began investigating the defendant on July 20 following the Cascade Fire on Mount Shasta.
An investigator discovered the defendant underneath his Kia Soul with the bottom of the car situated on a boulder and the front tires lodged in a ditch, according to court papers cited by the AP.
Another fire began burning through Mount Shasta the following day, and tire marks consistent with a Kia like Maynard’s were found at the scene, the outlet reports.
A tracking device was placed on the defendant’s car after police stopped him on August 3, the AP reports. Maynard reportedly drove his Kia to the Lassen National Forest in the area where the Conrad and Ranch Fires started.
If convicted, the alleged arsonist will face a maximum statutory penalty of up to 20 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine for each count of arson, the Justice Department stated. The mandatory minimum sentence for arson to federal property is five years in prison.
“Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables,” the Justice Department noted.
Maynard was apparently a college lecturer, Breitbart News previously reported, citing the Sacramento Bee.
“Maynard appears to have taught briefly at Santa Clara University and Sonoma State University, where a Gary Maynard was listed as a lecturer in criminal justice studies specializing in criminal justice, cults and deviant behavior,” the AP wrote. “He is no longer with either school.”