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Woman Accused in Wildfire to Leave Halfway House

September 17, 2002|From Associated Press

DENVER — The woman accused of starting the largest wildfire in Colorado history can be released from a halfway house while awaiting trial but must be monitored electronically, a federal judge ruled Monday.

Terry Barton, 38, has pleaded not guilty to four federal charges, including arson and injuring a firefighter.

The former U.S. Forest Service employee is accused of starting a June 8 fire near Lake George that destroyed 133 homes and blackened 137,000 acres.

Assistant U.S. Atty. David Conner argued that Barton should remain in a halfway house as a condition of her release on $600,000 bail. He said allowing her to leave would place her under additional stress and questioned whether electronic monitoring is effective.

U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch responded: "Don't you think it's stressful to live in a halfway house?" He also said he found electronic monitoring is usually effective.

Matsch ruled Barton can be released to a private home as soon as the federal Probation Department's Pretrial Services Division approves the location and arranges monitoring. He said Barton must check in regularly with pretrial services officials.

Barton's lawyer, Rick Williamson, said Barton has a job in the Denver area and has at least two homes available to her. He declined to give details.

Barton was arrested June 16. Investigators said she told them she accidentally started the fire while burning a letter from her estranged husband. Authorities believe she purposely set the fire.

She was released on bail after her husband agreed to use their home as security for her bond. She was ordered to get mental health counseling, stay in Colorado and not enter any forest.

Her trial is set to start Jan. 6. If convicted, she faces up to 60 years in prison and $1 million in fines.

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