|A former Madera County prosecutor was summarily disbarred after he was
convicted of setting the district attorney's office on fire. GEORGE M. DECHANT JR.
[#156651], 40, of Suisun lost his license July 25, 1998, and was ordered to
comply with rule 955 of the California Rules of Court. A former deputy district attorney
of Madera County, Dechant pleaded no contest to one count of arson in November 1997, after
he set fire to the county government center, causing in excess of $1 million in damage.
the crime was a felony committed with the intent to steal and was committed in the course
of the practice of law, he was summarily disbarred.
The State Bar Court's review department found that the crime of arson involves moral
turpitude and called Dechant's actions "a direct attack upon the justice
Dechant was fired after working for seven months in the district attorney's office.
Testifying at a preliminary hearing, a former roommate who met Dechant at an Alcoholics
Anonymous meeting said Dechant threatened at least 10 times to bomb the county government
building or set it on fire.
Arson investigators determined that the March 22, 1997, fire, which severely damaged
the district attorney's office and the county law library, was started with an accelerant
believed to be gasoline. Damage was estimated between $1 million and $1.5 million.
Investigators also discovered that a computer CPU (central processing unit) was stolen,
as well as a printer, a telephone and a typewriter from the law library.
Police later found the CPU in Dechant's bedroom and the printer in a storage facility
An arson investigator testified at Dechant's preliminary hearing that if firefighters
had not responded to the fire within three minutes, the building probably would have been
Many files were burned and offices which did not burn suffered severe smoke damage.
Prosecutors were forced to move out of the building to temporary quarters.
Dechant pleaded no contest to arson, with an enhancement for destroying property in
excess of $1 million.
Two counts of burglary and one count each of grand theft and receiving stolen property
He was sentenced to seven years in prison, and was incarcerated in Wasco state prison.
He has been on interim suspension since Feb. 23, 1998.