Sonoma County jurors will be asked next week if a former Santa Rosa resident broke the law when he bypassed a police barricade to check on his mother’s house, which was destroyed in the October wildfires.
Evan Neumann, 45, of Mill Valley faces up to six months in jail if convicted of the misdemeanor charge stemming from his attempt to get into the Fountaingrove neighborhood with his brother on Oct. 17, five days before authorities opened the area to residents.
His brother, Mark Neumann, 32, of Santa Rosa, accepted a plea bargain Thursday in which he will serve three years’ probation and perform 180 hours of community service.
But Evan Neumann, who claims he was never told to leave the burn zone before he was arrested, is taking his case to trial before Judge Julie Conger.
“It’s a perversion of justice,” said Neumann, who is acting as his own lawyer. He said he successfully defended himself in the early 1990s after he was charged with scaling the Golden Gate Bridge.
Jury selection begins Wednesday and the trial is expected to run for two days.
Santa Rosa police said the brothers were told it was illegal to go around barricades but did it anyway. Prosecutors will present police body camera videos and other evidence.
District Attorney Jill Ravitch would not discuss the case but said it is imperative to listen to authorities in disaster zones.
She did not know how many people have been charged with similar crimes in the wake of the fires.
“Thousands of people would have liked to get past those lines yet they followed orders and stayed away,” Ravitch said.