Teen pleads guilty in Valley Union arsonBy Jonathon Shacat
WICK NEWS SERVICE
A juvenile pleaded guilty Monday in Cochise County Superior Court to burning an administrative building at Valley Union High School in Elfrida last year.
Manuel Corona, now 17, entered into an agreement pleading guilty to committing arson and committing burglary while armed with a deadly weapon during the incident on July 22 or 23.
He was originally charged with committing arson of the school’s administrative building, committing burglary of the administrative building while armed, committing burglary of a science lab, and committing aggravated criminal damage of the administrative building, the lab and the gym.
According to the plea deal, Corona will be sentenced to five years in prison.
The arson count carries a presumptive term of 2 1/2 years in prison, while the burglary count carries a presumptive term of five years. Judge Wallace Hoggatt said he would impose those prison terms, but they would run concurrently.
After the incident, Corona confessed to law enforcement officials. Defense attorney Ricardo Bracamonte asked the court to suppress the confession, but the judge denied that motion last week.
Bracamonte said his client started the fire by igniting an aerosol can of Dust-Off, a brand of dust cleaner used for computers and electronic equipment.
Marc Offenhartz, deputy county attorney, said a representative of the school district told him the school board supports the plea agreement and the panel urged the court to accept it.
The agreement sets a cap of $1 million to be paid in restitution, based on documentation by the victim. But, Offenhartz said total is expected to be less than $400,000.
Hoggatt accepted the plea agreement. He vacated the trial that was supposed to start April 13. He also scheduled a hearing for June 8 to cover the matters of pre-sentence, restitution and sentence.
Corona also is charged with possessing more than 9 grams of cocaine, possessing the drug for sale, transporting the drug for sale and three counts of possessing drug paraphernalia during a vehicle stop along Highway 80 in Tombstone on June 26.
The drug case is scheduled for trial starting May 12.