A 20-year-old man accused of torching a Thousand Palms home with people inside was ordered Monday to be transferred from jail to a residential treatment program that provides support for people with intellectual disabilities.
Michael John Villanueva was ordered by Judge Burke Strunsky to be fitted with an ankle monitor within 24 hours of his release from the Banning jail, according to court records.
Villanueva pleaded not guilty in August to two felony counts of arson to an occupied dwelling stemming from the fire that damaged a home in the 30-000 block of Via Pared in Thousand Palms on Aug. 1. Nobody was injured in the fire, authorities said.
Lawyers for Villanueva are working to have him enrolled in a mental health diversion program. If he is admitted to such a program and he successfully completes it, the charges against him could be dismissed, officials said. The program is administered by Riverside County Behavioral Health specialists, said John Hall, spokesman for the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office.
“Depending on the circumstances, the program can take up to two years to complete,” Hall said. “If a defendant successfully completes the program, the court may decide to dismiss the case.”
A hearing is scheduled for Dec. 3 in Indio to discuss Villanueva’s eligibility for the program.
Strunsky ordered Villanueva to reside in Daniel’s House after his release, a treatment residence operated through Inland Regional Center, a nonprofit that provides support to people with various intellectual disabilities, Hall said.
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