Brian Panish and Robert Glassman, together with R. Rex Parris and Patricia Oliver from the Parris law firm, filed a petition with Los Angeles County Superior Court to set aside a plea agreement between SoCalGas and the Los Angeles District Attorney in the criminal case against the utility for the massive gas blowout at Aliso Canyon.
“The motion documents the failure of the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office to inform the victims of the proposed plea and failure to ensure restitution in violation of the State Constitution,” said Mr. Panish. “The petition also documents the failure to comply with the Penal Code requirements for acceptance of a guilty plea.”
“It would be reprehensible if there is the slightest appearance that the established law and the rules governing restitution were ignored to the benefit of the Defendant and to the detriment of the victims, ” added Mr. Parris.
In February 2016, the Los Angeles District Attorney filed four misdemeanor criminal charges against SoCalGas for releasing air contaminants at its Aliso Canyon Storage Facility and failing to report the release until three days after the October 2015 blowout began.
Under the plea agreement announced last month, SoCalGas pleaded no contest to one misdemeanor count of failing to immediately notify the California Office of Emergency Services and the Los Angeles County Fire Department, with the three remaining misdemeanor charges to be dismissed at sentencing. The plea agreement includes no requirement for a probation report, which would have resulted in notice to the victims and an opportunity to submit a claim for restitution.
Attorneys for the victims seek to have the plea withdrawn and request a restitution hearing to consider the victims’ economic losses as a result of the largest methane leak in American history before the court accepts the plea agreement or sentences the SoCalGas in November.
Click here to read the petition
Click here to read the exhibits