An Orange County Superior Court judge Wednesday ordered a third psychiatric doctor to analyze a defendant accused of setting the 23,000-acre Holy Fire in August because two other experts disagreed on whether he is mentally healthy enough to face arson charges.
Unlike previous court appearances, Forrest Gordon Clark, 51, did not make any vocal outbursts during Wednesday’s hearing. Defense attorney Nicole Parness said the psychiatric experts who analyzed Clark disagreed on his mental fitness to assist in his defense, so a “tie-breaker” doctor was needed.
Orange County Superior Court Judge Michael Murray approved a third doctor and ordered the defendant to return to court Nov. 28 for an update.
Parness told Murray she filed a motion compelling prosecutors to turn over more evidence in the case and a hearing on that is scheduled for Friday at the North Justice Center in Fullerton. It was not clear what, if any, issue has arisen in the turning over of evidence.
Deputy District Attorney Jeffrey Kirk told reporters after the hearing that his office was turning over whatever evidence it had as is routine and required in criminal proceedings.
Kirk said it was “always a possibility” additional charges could be filed as more evidence is gathered about the origin of the Holy Fire, which blackened more than 23,000 acres in Orange and Riverside counties.
On the day the Holy Fire erupted, Aug. 6, Clark threatened to kill a neighbor at about 7:30 a.m., prosecutors said in a motion to deny bail. As the victim was walking to his truck, the defendant allegedly told him he “(expletive) with the wrong person,” according to the motion.
“The defendant stated that he was `crazy’ and noted it was `perfect’ because he could do anything he wants and get away with it,” prosecutors said in the motion.
Later that day he allegedly set fire to his neighbor’s residence in Holy Jim Canyon and the blaze destroyed 13 other residences, prosecutors said.
Orange County sheriff’s investigator Jennifer Hernandez said in an affidavit supporting the motion to deny bail that Clark “could be heard on video telling (a victim), `Mark my words, you’re gonna die at 12:37… I have 100 percent plausible deniability.’ You’re gonna die. I’m gonna murder you.”
Clark allegedly made at least five “specific threats” and “allusions” to set fires, Hernandez wrote.
The defendant “appears to believe in the Sovereign Citizen ideology,” Hernandez said.
The ideology’s supporters “believe the government does not have the authority to enforce a majority of our laws and taxes,” Hernandez said, adding that not everyone who subscribes to the theory is violent, but law enforcement recognizes it as a “terrorism threat.”
Clark is charged with aggravated arson damaging at least five inhabited structures, arson of inhabited property, arson of forest and criminal threats, all felonies, as well as two misdemeanor counts of resisting arrest.
Clark could face 10 years to life in prison.
Orange County sheriff’s deputies have had multiple encounters with Clark dating back to 2006, according to Carrie Braun, a spokeswoman for the department.