Arson case against TV news photographer ended in mistrial

A mistrial was declared in the case of Joshua Harville, accused of setting 2002 wildfire to get TV footage

It seemed like a sensational story: Los Angeles prosecutors alleged that a freelance video cameraman set a 5,100-acre blaze in Leona Valley to get exclusive TV news footage.

The fire destroyed five homes in 2002, and cameraman Joshua Harville provided TV stations with dramatic footage.

But the case turned out to have major problems from the beginning.

The prosecution's case was largely circumstantial. No one saw Harville start the blaze. Testimony from fire officials and witnesses put Harville and his car near the fire's point of origin that day.

Harville denied setting the fire and said he got to the scene quickly because he was a good, aggressive cameraman.

"There's no shame in that," defense attorney Alan Baum said during his opening remarks. "It's a competitive business, and if you're not first, you're last."

On the witness stand, Harville claimed detectives had ignored evidence that would have cleared him.

Jurors voted unanimously to acquit him on five less serious counts of arson, and on an 8-4 vote found him not guilty on two counts of aggravated arson.

The judge declared a mistrial.

In 2005, prosecutors decided to drop the remaining charges.

Source: Times reports

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times