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A First District Court of Appeal panel seemed reluctant Wednesday to let Charley Charles escape the consequences of the Three Strikes law. The attorney general’s office is appealing a San Francisco judge’s decision last year that allowed Charles’ previous arson and attempted murder convictions to count as one strike. Charles was once known as the “baby burner” for attempting to murder his 6-year-old son by setting a motel room on fire in 1983. Prosecutors had argued that Charles’ most recent conviction � unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon � should have counted as his third strike. And though the trial court ruled last year that Charles’ criminal history and background fell under the spirit of the Three Strikes law, it still struck the arson conviction because it occurred in the same incident as the attempted murder, according to court filings. “The trial court said inherently inconsistent things,” said Judge Joanne Parrilli, referring to Judge Cynthia Lee’s logic in the ruling. Justices William McGuiness and Stuart Pollak also heard Wednesday’s oral arguments. Parrilli presented a hypothetical situation to Charles’ attorney, Deputy Public Defender Gabriel Bassan: If a gunshot killed three people, would that be a single act? “You’re asking me to comment on a situation we don’t have,” Bassan replied. He pointed out that the additional victims were not “charged victims” and stressed in his brief that the prosecution’s attempt to relitigate the 1983 case that gained Charles widespread notoriety was “improper.” Citing People v. Benson, 18 Cal.4th 24, 36, fn. 8., Bassan argued in briefs that “it is deeply repugnant to our jurisprudence to allow an individual to be punished doubly, triply, or more, depending on how many different ways a creative prosecutor may find to describe and charge a single course of conduct.” But Deputy Attorney General Amy Haddix argued that the trial court misunderstood the scope of its authority in striking the arson conviction. Based on People v. Superior Court ( Romero), 13 Cal. 4th 497, multiple factors such as the nature of the current offense � as well as Charles’ entire criminal history � should have been considered, she said. Additionally, Haddix argued Charles harmed multiple victims in the 1983 incident aside from Charles’ 6-year-old son, including the motel owner and motel residents. “The record is clear,” Haddix said. The trial court “made a miscalculation of law.” Pollak picked up on Haddix’s point that there were multiple victims involved in the 1983 incident. “What is there to decide? There were two victims, weren’t there?” Pollak said. Charles is currently housed in the county jail facing additional charges that include fraud. None of his recent charges are “serious or violent felonies” that would count under the Three Strikes law. In March, Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, and Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley announced Senate Bill 1642, which would require the third strike to be a serious or violent felony. It is still pending in the Senate. A similar bill made it to the ballot two years ago as Proposition 66, but did not pass. The judges’ ruling on the Charley Charles case is expected within 90 days.

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