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Accused arsonist sentenced to time served, 5 years of probation

February 22, 2011

Inyo County Superior Court judges passed down sentencing on one high-profile defendant and set trial dates for two others.
The Bay Area man charged with torching the Schulman Grove Visitor’s Center in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest in September 2008 has been sentenced to time served and five years formal probation.
According to court clerks, John Thomas Christiana, 49, is back home in the Bay Area, but will have to return to the area to check in with his probation officer. However, the clerk said, the court and probation departments are trying to transfer probation duties from Inyo to an area closer to Christiana.
Christiana, an accomplished mountain climber and one-time motivational speaker, was charged with a slew of felonies in Mono and Inyo counties.
He was found guilty of vandalism in Mono County in February 2010 and sentenced to one year in jail, which was time served, and five years probation. He was found guilty of ransacking the Summit Laboratory of the University of California’s White Mountain Research Station.
The two other cases appearing before judges Tuesday are murder trials, one of which has received so much attention a change of venue had to be arranged.
Murder suspect Louis LePlat, 20, will stand trial on April 5 in Ventura County before Judge Kathryne A. Stoltz. The case, and related incidents surrounding LePlat and the crime he is alleged to have committed, received widespread media attention. When his office lost its challenge to LePlat’s change of venue request, Inyo County District Attorney Art Maillet imposed a gag order for his office. Maillet said the “sensationalism” of the trial by local media forced the change of venue.
LePlat is being charged with alleged first-degree murder for the stabbing death of James Eric Rambeau, Jr., 23, of Bishop. LePlat was originally arrested on June 19, 2009.
Edward Keller, Jr. is charged with murder for allegedly killing James Eugene Williams on Thanksgiving Day, 2009. Keller was 17 years old at the time of his arrest but is being tried as an adult.
Keller will stand before a jury trial in Inyo County set to begin March 7.

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