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Emerald bail deal on table

The grandmother of Keith Emerald, the Columbia man accused of starting last summer’s Rim Fire, will put up a check for $60,000 to meet Emerald’s bail, rather than Emerald and his mother risking their property for his release from custody. 

Emerald surrendered to U.S. Marshall custody in Fresno on Tuesday before his first appearance in court. He pleaded not guilty to two felonies and two misdemeanors for starting an illegal campfire, letting it escape and then lying about it, as alleged by a federal grand jury one week ago.


Magistrate Judge Gary Austin was going to allow Emerald to put his Montana property on bond, along with his mother’s property in Sonora, to reach a $60,000 bail. 

Emerald on Wednesday appeared in court and requested instead that a $60,000 certified check from his maternal grandmother be accepted for his release, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. His parents would then pay her back with their retirement funds if Emerald violated the terms of his release. 

Emerald will be released to the custody of his mother, Deborah Emerald. He is to stay at her home in Sonora and not leave for more than 24 hours. He cannot leave California and he must submit a DNA sample.

If Emerald is arrested for anything other than traffic infractions, his bail could be forfeited. He also was ordered to surrender all firearms. Austin also ordered Emerald to not light any campfires. 

Emerald, his parents and grandmother must return to court Friday to accept the terms in person in U.S. District Court in Fresno. He will remain in custody until then. 

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