Three people accused of deliberately setting their Lodi store, Salisbury’s Market, on fire appeared in front of a judge for less than a minute today, and according to their lawyer, they want a trial.
Elk Grove residents and owners Prem Basuta, 47, his wife Kulwinder “Kelly” Basuta, 48, and Lodi resident Gurmail “Gary” Singh, 55, stood before Judge Lauren Thomasson in Lodi court Tuesday morning. Their appearance lasted less than a minute, with all three entering “not guilty” pleas.
No comments were made regarding evidence or charges. The only discussion was whether or not a Punjabi interpreter would be available for the next two court dates set by Thomasson.
The Basutas and Singh are set to appear in Lodi court again on July 3 at 9:30 a.m. They are then scheduled to appear for a preliminary hearing on Aug. 9 in Stockton.
According to their lawyer, Michael Farley, the three owners are angry and frustrated.
He said they are upset that they have been accused of destroying their own business, and that they said they have not yet been able to figure out what started the fire that shut down Salisbury’s Market beginning Oct. 15, 2011.
Salisbury’s Market remains closed, though starting two weeks ago, RDK Construction began repairs that would hopefully allow the store to open by October or November. Until then, no serious strides had been made on renovating the store.
Farley added that the market was not losing the Basutas or Singh any money when it caught fire. Rather, the market was a profitable business.
“They have raised their families and they have paid taxes. They have led successful, productive lives,” Farley said. “We plan to attack (probable cause) evidence and we plan to demonstrate the falsity of evidence against them.”
According to investigators, the Basutas and Singh are believed to be responsible for the fire that damaged Salisbury’s Market at 2401 W. Turner Road in October. The fire cause severe smoke damage to the interior of the building, and one firefighter injured his hand while he was fighting the blaze.
Lodi Fire Department division chief Aimee New said the firefighter was taken to be treated for his injury and was back on the job shortly thereafter.
The Basutas and Singh face charges of arson, as well as insurance fraud and grand theft charges. The three turned themselves in to the San Joaquin County Superior Court on May 23. They were booked at the Lodi jail, but have since been released.
Contact reporter Katie Nelson at firstname.lastname@example.org.