In a red sweater, long black skirt and high heals donated by women from the Payette County Clerk’s Office, Catherine Carlson appeared for the first day of her trial Tuesday, facing charges of first-degree arson, unlawful possession of a bomb or destructive device and indecent exposure (BW, News, "Catherine Carlson's Day in Court, April 6, 2011).
Prosecutors said Carlson set fire to her City of Payette trailer on July 11, 2010, threatened others by possibly using a firebomb, and appeared naked on Highway 95 not far from her home. Carlson, a transgender woman, pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Throughout Tuesday's proceedings, Carlson listened intently, occasionally conferring with her attorney and public defender, Phillip Heersink.
A jury heard a 40-minute recording of Carlson’s arrest interview with Payette City Police, in which the defendant described her feelings of being a victim of a hate crime ever since her transsexual identity had been outed in court records and during traffic stops. Carlson wiped tears from her eyes while listening to the tape.
Payette County prosecutors called six witnesses, including police and fire department first responders. Prosecution is expected to wrap up today with six more witnesses and closing arguments.
If found guilty on felony counts, Carlson could be sentenced up to 35 years in state prison and fined $120,000.