File-A Feb. 3, 2014, file photo provided by Clark County Fire Department, shows Gloria Eun Hye Lee at the Clark County Detention Center in Las Vegas. Lee faces felony conspiracy and arson charges in the early Jan. 27, 2014, fire at the Prince & Princess Puppy Boutique in Las Vegas. A hearing for a Las Vegas pet shop owner accused of trying to burn her store with 27 puppies inside drew animal rights protestors and more charges from prosecutors who sought to have her jailed at least until her preliminary hearing on multiple felony charges. (AP Photo/Clark County Fire Department ,File)
Photo credit: The Associated Press
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Animal rights advocates held signs and cursed a Las Vegas pet shop owner as she arrived at court Wednesday to face criminal charges and accusations that she conspired with an arsonist to burn her store with 27 puppies inside.
Armed marshals ushered one protester out of the Clark County Regional Justice Center after she confronted store owner Gloria Eun Hye Lee with angry words in a courtroom hallway. The protester left the building voluntarily and wasn't charged with a crime.
In the courtroom, Lee, 35, stood silently while prosecutor Shannon Clowers asked Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Joseph Sciscento to order Lee into custody on $400,000 bail as she awaits a Feb. 24 preliminary hearing.
No puppies perished in the overnight fire Jan. 27 at the Prince and Princess pet store several miles southwest of the Las Vegas Strip. Firefighters rescued the dogs and credited fire sprinklers with preventing extensive damage to the shop and surrounding strip mall.
The rescued animals were later turned over to an animal shelter where they've been photographed staring with fuzzy faces from behind kennel bars.
"I can presume she's going to go to prison for this," Clowers declared during Lee's court appearance. "This is absolutely, 100 percent egregious."
Store security video shows Lee letting a man later identified as Kirk Bills into the store a little before 1 a.m., according to court documents.
The video shows the man carrying a pair of red gasoline cans, and Lee collecting files from the store while the man splashes liquid from the cans around the floor, shelves and puppy cages and ignites the liquid with a flaming newspaper. The video could be made public at the preliminary hearing.
Lee and Bills face 31 criminal charges, including first-degree arson, conspiracy, burglary and 27 counts of attempted cruelty to animals. They could face decades in state prison if convicted.
Bills, 27, of Henderson is being sought on an arrest warrant. Attempts by The Associated Press to reach him have not been successful.
Clowers told the judge that Lee is a three-time felon with convictions in California dating to 1999 for bank theft, forgery and escape. Lee also faced criminal charges of improper animal care in 2008, and the charges were dismissed, the prosecutor said.
Lee's defense attorneys, Tom Pitaro and Ozzie Fumo, surrendered her Korean passport and convinced the judge to let her remain free on $20,000 bail and house arrest, at least until a Friday bail hearing.
The judge at one point acknowledged that emotions in the case ran high.
Afterward, courthouse marshals ushered Lee and Fumo out of the building through a back entrance while Pitaro faced reporters and persistent hecklers in the courthouse hallway.
Pitaro said Lee will fight the charges against her.
"I would hope the concern that's shown here could be shown for the homeless, the helpless, the hungry," the veteran defense attorney said, "instead of yelling and shouting vile comments."
The attempted cruelty charges could be tried as felonies or misdemeanors, with each carrying up to one year each in county jail. Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson said the charges reflect one count for each of the puppies that might have perished in their cages before firefighters arrived.
"This case could have been much more than property damage and potential injury to puppies," Wolfson said.
He added that the fire could have also endangered people and severely damaged adjacent stores in the strip mall.
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