Santa Rosa, CA – March 12, 2019 – Sonoma
County District Attorney Jill Ravitch, along with the District Attorneys for
Napa, Humboldt and Lake Counties, announced today that no criminal charges
would be filed against PG&E related to the October 2017 Northern California
wildfires. After an extensive review, each office determined that insufficient
evidence exists to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that PG&E acted with a
reckless disregard for human life in causing the fires, the standard necessary
to sustain criminal charges. The District Attorneys consulted with the
California Attorney General’s Office during the review of the cases and prior
to the decision not to file charges.
thorough investigations, Cal Fire determined that PG&E’s equipment caused
numerous wildfires in the four counties, and referred their reports to the
district attorneys to review for possible filing of criminal charges. Of the
fires that originated in Sonoma County, Cal Fire determined that PG&E’s
equipment caused the Adobe, Norrbom, Pocket, and Pythian/Oakmont Fires, but did
not cause the Nuns Fire and the Thirty Seven Fire (along with the Tubbs Fire
which originated in Napa County).
cases that were referred for prosecution all required proof that PG&E acted
with criminal negligence in failing to remove dead and dying trees. Under
California law, criminal negligence requires proof of actions that are reckless
and incompatible with a proper regard for human life, and any charges must be
proven unanimously to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. Proving PG&E failed
in their duty to remove trees was made particularly difficult in this context
as the locations where the fires occurred, and where physical evidence could
have been located, were decimated by the fires.
remains on federal criminal probation and is a defendant in many private civil
cases arising out of the wildfires seeking, among other remedies, financial
compensation. Sonoma County is a party to one of the civil lawsuits.
District Attorney’s Offices would like to thank Cal Fire for its outstanding
work in battling these fires and investigating their causes.