Judge: Defendant Should Walk on Eggshells

Local businessman James Kurtenbach, accused of plotting a fatal arson and out on $2 million bail, was told to behave or else.

A judge granted a restraining order against James Kurtenbach, a Poway man accused of orchestrating a deadly explosion at his rental home in Ramona which killed one of his employees.

Joseph Neishewat, 24, died in the blast. He was an employee at a Ramona gas station owned by Kurtenbach. Watch video: Arson Victim's Mother Wants Answers.

Prosecutors allege that Kurtenbach had been planning to burn down the home since 2007 and had increased insurance coverage on the home in February 2008. 

The victim owed Kurtenbach money, according to prosecutors who also believe Kurtenbach had asked Neishewat and another witness to burn down the house in late 2007.  The prosecutor also said Kurtenbach had a history of harrassing employees and one even took out a restraining order.

Kurtenbach's defense attorney, Earll Pott,  told reporters in pre-trial interviews, "At worst, this case is an arson that went terribly wrong not through any plan."

While he's out on $2million bail awaiting trial, Kurtenbach is apparently trying to collect other debts owed to him. His attorney John Masnica said that debtors are stringing his client along, perhaps thinking they won't have to pay.

However Judge Allan Preckel agreed with one of those debtors, Ramona fence-builder Bob Woodward, who testified that Kurtenbach had been calling him day and night, pounding on his door early in the morning and accosting him around town in Ramona according to the North County Times.

Preckel told Kurtenbach he cannot contact Woodward for three years. The judge was also quoted by the paper as saying "He should be going out of his way to be walking on eggshells in terms of how he conducts himself during this critical period of time leading up to his trial."

Kurtenbach's trial is scheduled to begin January 2010.

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