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galleria fire

Galleria arson suspect ‘mentally competent’

Defense: Max prison penalty now 40 years, not life
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Medical analysis concluded the suspect in October’s arson at the Galleria is “mentally competent,” it was revealed in his final Placer County court appearance Tuesday, before federal prosecutors step in. David Broady, with the county district attorney’s office, alluded to defendant Alexander Piggee’s mental health before asking a judge to seal his medical records and dismiss charges. A U.S. district attorney’s office will take over the case, which elevates Piggee’s indictment to federal counts of arson – at both the Galleria and a Wal-Mart on Antelope Road. Piggee’s mental stability has been in question since he reportedly set fire to both buildings Oct. 21, following his rejection from regional hospitals. Defense attorney Johnny Lewis Griffin III said his client was on medication and suffered from depression and suicide ideation. Griffin sent an associate to the Auburn court on his behalf. He said later that he was “taken aback” that Broady discussed the medical report, but agreed that his client has benefited from county services. “His mental health condition has improved substantially, such that I believe he has a better understanding of the criminal process or the legal process,” Griffin said. Of the transition from state to federal jurisdiction, Griffin noted a drawback and benefit. He feared wherever Piggee is transferred this week or next – likely Sacramento County jail – the defendant might not receive the same quality of mental health help. But Griffin mentioned also that the newer charges carry a maximum 40-year sentence, whereas California statutes could have put Piggee away for life. Though the case has become more complex, Griffin plans to maintain a similar defense. In a jab at Roseville officials lambasted for the Galleria fire’s expansion, Griffin contrasted the same-day Wal-Mart fire that was “extinguished rather quickly.” ~ Lien Hoang