California Bar Journal
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Former prosecutor disbarred after setting DA's office on fire
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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.

Because 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 system."

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 he rented.

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 destroyed.

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 were dismissed.

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.