MARIPOSA COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- A 71-year-old man accused of starting the Oak Fire in Mariposa County last July was in court on Thursday.
Edward Wackerman is facing several felony charges in connection with the fire that destroyed more than 100 homes.
In court, Wackerman pleaded not guilty to several felony charges, including aggravated arson.
"This is a huge case, not just in terms of the consequences that Mr. Wackerman is facing, but I believe people are talking about there's 150 witnesses they intend on calling. The discovery in this case is voluminous," said defense attorney Ric Squaglia.
The defense requested the preliminary hearing be pushed back to next year.
In the courtroom, Wackerman claimed to have a hard time understanding the judge.
His attorney tells Action News that his client is under a lot of stress.
Mariposa County District Attorney Walter Wall says evidence will show Wackerman is guilty of starting the fire that burned 127 homes and 19,000 acres.
"It is a little more complex. It obviously involves much more damage," Wall said.
Meanwhile, people in the community say they hope he receives the maximum punishment if convicted.
"Wackerman seems to be a troubled man, and I think what it shows is we have monsters in this community. And I have full faith in the district attorney to seek Justice in this case and that's a life sentence," said Michael Matheson, a resident and a candidate for the California State Assembly.
A four-day preliminary hearing is slated for March 19th, 2024
Wackerman will continue to remain behind bars with a no-bail order.