The case of a 49-year-old man accused of burning down his Merced steakhouse to collect $280,000 in insurance money has finally ended.
Adolfo Pulido pleaded guilty to felony arson charges Friday morning in Merced County Superior Court for the a fire that destroyed Big Al's Steakhouse and Cantina in 2003, according to Deputy District Attorney Walter Wall.
Pulido was tried on the same charges in 2007 and a year ago. Each trial resulted in a hung jury by a vote of 11-1, with the majority of jurors favoring a guilty verdict.
Pulido, who faced up to six years in state prison, will serve 12 months in county jail and must describe to insurance investigators how he set the fire. In addition, he pleaded guilty to a beer theft scheme. He will be on probation for three years and eight months.
The plea deal will count as a felony strike on Pulido's record. He will also have to register as an arsonist with local authorities, said Hall.
Pulido is a Mexican citizen in the U.S. on a green card.
Wall said the case took "tremendous resources from our office." But in the end, he added, the outcome was positive since there were gaps in the prosecution's case.
The D.A.'s office subpoenaed more than 72 witnesses in the case from as far away as New Hampshire, said Wall.
Wall said Pulido's explanation of how he set the fire will give investigators in the future a case study to examine when they look into arsons.
Pulido didn't plead in open court. Instead, Judge Mark Garcia and Wall, along with Pulido and his lawyer, conferred in the judge's chambers.
Pulido, who wore brown cowboy boots, dark jeans and a tan long-sleeved shirt in court, said he had no comment as he left the courthouse.
Reporter Jonah Owen Lamb can be reached at (209) 385-2484 or firstname.lastname@example.org