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A wildfire in Northern California (Photo: USDA.gov)

KCRA Leaves Out Most Important Detail in Article about Man Caught Planting Explosives Along Highway

He’s a former firefighter and convicted arsonist

By Katy Grimes, January 13, 2024 8:57 am

An article about a “man accused of planting explosives along roads, highways in El Dorado, Sacramento counties,” caught my eye this morning.

KCRA Channel 3 reported:

Placing explosives along roads and highways is what landed a man in jail, the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office said Friday.

After a joint operation involving the FBI and California Highway Patrol, the sheriff’s office said it arrested 41-year-old Benjamin Cunha of Orangevale. He is in the El Dorado County Jail facing charges related to possessing and unlawfully exploding a destructive device.

They wrapped up the short article with this: “Details were also not released as to where exactly those explosives were planted.”

But I wanted to know more. Who is this guy? How does he have explosives experience? That’s a highly specialized field for someone to dabble in.

So I googled his name, “Benjamin Cunha.”

Guess what popped up?

Mr. Cunha is a former firefighter and convicted arsonist.

The Mountain Democrat reported accurately and thoroughly:

A former Placerville resident, Benjamin Cunha, who was previously in prison for arson, was arrested Friday on a search warrant related to “improvised explosive devices” placed in locations in El Dorado and Sacramento counties.

Cunha was previously arrested and found guilty of starting at least 30 wildland fires during the summers of 2006 and 2007, including the Mine Fire that burned approximately 80 acres of land; he was sentenced to five years in prison in 2016. He was a volunteer firefighter with the Diamond Springs Fire Protection District during that time, and once worked with Cal Fire.

I even found the Department of Justice report on his 2016 conviction and sentencing with my very quick google search:

Benjamin Cunha, 33, of Placerville, was sentenced today to five years in prison for arson, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced. In addition, United States District Judge John A. Mendez ordered Cunha to pay $246,862 in restitution to Cal Fire.

According to court documents, Cunha, a seasonal CAL FIRE firefighter from 2001 to 2003, admitted to setting at least 30 wildland fires during the summers of 2006 and 2007. Two of these fires burned onto federal land. Cunha indicated that his motivation for setting the fires was to overcome boredom, to earn overtime pay for fighting the fires, and to impress his peers.

“As he admitted in his plea agreement, this defendant set a multitude of fires with a callous disregard for the danger to life and property that he was inflicting,” said U.S. Attorney Wagner. “Today’s sentence is a just result that takes a serial arsonist off the streets.”

“Benjamin Cunha set over 30 fires in El Dorado and Amador Counties. ATF worked with our local partners and utilized several resources to perfect an investigation for federal prosecution,” said Special Agent in Charge Jill A. Snyder. “Cunha had no consideration for CAL FIRE fighters’ safety when he set the fires, placing them in grave danger during the fire suppression efforts.”

And how did a former fire fighter only get 5 years in prison? That’s another story entirely…

Compare these headlines:

KCRA: Man accused of planting explosives along roads, highways in El Dorado, Sacramento counties

Mountain Democrat: Former firefighter and convicted arsonist suspected of placing explosives

How could the reporter not have any intellectual curiosity about this?

This is the textbook example of why people are so fed up with the media. This is inexcusable.

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27 thoughts on “KCRA Leaves Out Most Important Detail in Article about Man Caught Planting Explosives Along Highway

  1. Editors are hiring children right out of liberal arts programs from Mills College and Brown.
    Children whose parents are connected to the publisher.
    Children without real life experience.
    They are cute but do not get beyond their computer screens, subsequently we have shallow thought and shallow reporting.

  2. KCRA is a NBC affiliate. NBC is just a propaganda outlet for the deep-state where news is censored and distorted all the time? Maybe he was also connected with one of the Democrat party’s thug offshoots like Antifa/BLM?

    Thankfully we have Katy Grimes and California Globe to be a beacon of truth and honesty in news reporting!

  3. Katy indicated that she googled his name. Unfortunately Google searches are often heavily censored with information often being deleted or omitted? There’s also privacy concerns with Google searches? There are better search alternatives such as Brave Search, Startpage, Tusk, Qwant, MetaGer, Ecosia, etc.

  4. To omit those facts about the arsonist is INSANITY. So glad Katy Grimes caught it —– yes, because of the intellectual curiosity that ALL reporters are supposed to have, not just one or two in a state with 39 million people in it.
    I guess the Feds prosecuted him because the crime was on federal lands? Or because the local D.A. would not or could not prosecute it? Thought that was interesting, because if anyone remembers AB 1810, (Sen Jim Beal?) the budget trailer bill from 2018 that was scarcely reported even though it essentially legalized murder and rape and all violent crime through a short program of “mental health diversion” for the suspect with a result of nothing on the suspect’s record, in place of prosecution and incarceration. This was shocking at the time but a since-then-jaded CA public would not be as shocked now, of course. As I recall they even wanted to put pedophilia on the list for “mental health diversion,” if you can believe it. You know, because such a person should not be incarcerated, but “treated.” Sigh.
    Anyway, after an eventual kerfuffle throughout the state and in Sacramento that late summer and fall of 2018 (as I remember it) AB 1810 was mostly scotched, or supposedly “fixed,” but I was following it pretty closely at the time and the one item that survived was the crime of arson. Is arson even being prosecuted since 2018, and with consistency and reasonable sentences? Or are local prosecutors looking the other way more often than not? Something really stinky seems afoot here, especially considering all the huge but sketchy fires we have had in recent years, especially since 2018, but I’m not up to date on exactly what is going on and my memory is spotty.

    1. P.S. Interestingly, the Mountain Democrat was one of a handful — and I mean handful, might have been fewer — of newspapers that reported in 2018 about AB 1810. Unfortunately I can’t link directly to the story without subscribing but here is the intro from a search of the Mountain Democrat website:

      The Divide
      Diversion program for mentally ill criminals signed by Gov. Brown
      By Dawn Hodson Jul 23, 2018
      In a move largely under the radar, Gov. Jerry Brown signed the new budget for the state, which included a “trailer bill” that gives defendants a chance to have to their charges dismissed and even evidence of their arrest erased from the record if they can convince a judge the crime they were arrested for was caused […]
      Katy Grimes may have written about it for one of the many publications to which she contributed then, but all of this happened before she was editor of the CA Globe and I was unable to find anything, perhaps because a lot of the stories about it have apparently been scrubbed from the internet.

    2. He was given state level immunity after confessing to starting the 2005-2007 fires. State level transactional immunity is not binding at the Federal level. After the 2013 fires, he is suspected of, but not proven to, setting., Feds wanted him removed from society, and then prosecuted him in 2016 for the 2007 federal Mine Fire stating his immunity was not binding at the Federal level. The Fedwral prosecution team wanted him to serve 10 years, then agreed to a negotiated 7.5 years. However, the judge didn’t believe BC should serve anytime, but the judges hands were tied to the minimum 5 year sentence. Per the Judge, BC had already served his time for the 2005-2007 fires. 365 days served in county jail.

      In 2008, while on probation, BC was arrested for possession of weapons, stealing and selling stolen weapons. I don’t know if he was convicted of those charges.

      As far as the media, seems they have all agreed not to publish more than what LE binds them to. That’s why I think news agencies are not reporting with more details.

    1. This news piqued a lot of interest, more so because all media outlets seem to be reporting (duplicating) the same article. That is very unusual. My question wasn’t one of an undeveloped reporter, but more of why are all regurgitating the same press announcement.

    2. This news piqued a lot of interest, more so because all media outlets seem to be reporting (duplicating) the same article. That is very unusual. My question wasn’t one of an undeveloped reporter, but more of why are all regurgitating the same press announcement?

  5. There’s also news stories about how his daughter nearly drowned and made a miraculous recovery. His facebook page is still available and has somw public information on it. How does someone behave like this? It is so sad.

  6. This news piqued a lot of interest, more so because all media outlets seem to be reporting (duplicating) the same article. That is very unusual. My question wasn’t one of an undeveloped reporter, but more of why are all regurgitating the same press announcement.

  7. Plus the fact Mr. Cunha was out on $50,000 bond stemming from his Dec. 27, 2023 arrest by Sacramento County Sheriff’s Dept on the following charges:
    11370.1(A) – Possess A Firearm And Controlled Substances
    29800(A)1 – Addict in Possession of Firearm
    22210 – Manufacture / Import / Sell – Billy / Blackjack / Sandbag / Etc
    30305(A)(1) – Possession Of Ammunition
    31360(A) – Violent Felon in Possession of Body Armor

  8. Katy, that’s your opinion that KCRA omitted the “most important detail.”
    I’d say the most important detail is the arrest. Otherwise there is no news angle.

    Blowing things out of proportion to make your competitors look bad is as bad as getting things wrong.

    1. If this was my opinion Herb, I would have identified it as an opinion article. It is a fact that KCRA did not include important details in the article. And as of this evening, they have not updated it either.

      And yes, there is a news angle given that the perpetrator was once a fire fighter and a convicted arsonist. -Katy

  9. Google news covered your Globe story.
    Google more often. Get more coverage.
    Google sez, “Do no evil.”
    Despite its founding ethos, for Google and the others doing evil could be quite profitable.
    In China, in USA?
    Google led the way for American tech companies helping the Chinese government surveilling the people of China…and other stuff.

  10. Thank you for this insightful article Katy. The arrestee being a convicted arsonist is highly relevant. From a legal perspective, the prior conviction will likely be admitted to the future criminal evidence because it is similar conduct. Just think how many criminal acts this person has actually gotten AWAY with. They appear to not have been convicted for the state arson & subsequent damage. I would also like to know HOW MUCH of the court ordered restitution Mr. Cunha paid back to the government. My guess is very little since he apparently had lots of funds left over for the purchase of body armor, gun/s, and bomb making materials.

  11. “Herb” probably wrote the KCRA article.

    When I was reading the KCRA article about Cunha, I remembered hearing about a volunteer firefighter that was setting fires a few years ago in El Dorado County. I thought, that can’t be the same person because he’s probably still in prison. I looked up his name and sure enough, it was the same person. It blows my mind Cunha was given a short sentence and was out committing felonies again! So yeah, poor journalism on KCRA’s part. Was it because KCRA doesn’t want to show how our justice system is broke, especially when it comes to sentencing, or just pure laziness?

    Richie Greenberg recently wrote an article about the ceasefire activists/protestors. I thought he did a great job tying together all the different angles. Good investative journalism.

    1. Sacramento is a Company town, that Company being California state government. KCRA is the Company news outlet. Stories are Company-centric, and almost always show the Company in the best possible light.

      It’s a lot like CNN’s Bagdad bureau back in the days of Bagdad Bob. CNN didn’t run stories that were negative about the Hussein regime or CNN wouldn’t have a Bagdad bureau. That’s not to say that if KCRA started reporting objectively they’d disappear. But showing the Leftist state government favoritism makes their job much easier and their utopian lives more comfortable.

      If you’re a Democrat or a government employee, KCRA is your news source. If you’re not, there are better choices. Not much better, but better.

  12. I have noticed that many of the msm articles are minimal on information these days. They often use the line “police have no further information at this time”, then you never hear a follow up. It is so frustrating when basic facts are left out. Thank you Katie for following up on this story.

  13. I see the most import thing about Ben is he was on season 2 of 24 to life crying about trying to get out of going to jail but the doctors wouldn’t give him a note! Take that Kathy!

  14. Ben Cunha is the son of 2 retired firefighters, father Ed and grandfather, in a small town. THIS is why the “light” sentences. Ed Cunha owns a mine where blasting is conducted giving Ben easy access to bomb making tools. There is a long history of enabling. He started playing with matches as a 7-10 yr old, was supposedly mandated to attend a juvenile fire offender program. He’s been getting passes for decades. He even got a pass, before going to prison, to attend grandpa’s 90th bday party in another state. Outrageous privilege and entitlement. It’s past time for him to be removed from society for society’s sake; his wrap sheet is long (guns, domestic violence, possession of other weapons, possession of incendiary devices, etc..There is a literal trove, decades long, of pertinent information KCRA neglected (chose) to report.

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