Santa Rosa, CA – March 8, 2019 – Defendant
Vincent Joseph O’Sullivan, 56 years old of Guerneville, was found guilty by a
jury Thursday afternoon of criminally threatening to bomb the Safeway grocery store
in Guerneville, CA. The jury further found that this threat constituted a hate
crime in that O’Sullivan made this threat in part because his targeted victim
Attorney Ravitch stated, “In our society free speech is a valuable right. And
yet, this is not an unfettered right. When speech crosses over into threats
that are specific, immediate, and intended to be conveyed as threats, that can
become a crime.”
The charge of
criminal threats stemmed from an incident which happened on May 12, 2018 when
O’Sullivan entered the Safeway in Guerneville to purchase a coffee at the
Starbucks kiosk. The lone barista working behind the counter, a gay man,
recognized O’Sullivan as a regular customer and sought to strike up a
conversation at the register. Using a combination of homophobic slur and foul
language, O’Sullivan responded by calmly stating that he was in the process of
building pipe bombs to blow up the barista, Safeway, and the Guerneville
Sheriff substation. The victim testified at trial that this threat gave him
nightmares for weeks afterwards.
In addition to
evidence of the threat, jurors also heard about a crime that had taken place
three days prior. On May 9, 2018 O’Sullivan had taken part in the theft of a
gay pride flag from the Veterans Memorial flagpole in the Guerneville plaza.
When arrested for that theft, O’Sullivan described the flying of the flag as
“disgraceful and offensive”, claiming it had no place on the pole which was
dedicated to veterans. O’Sullivan was charged separately with the theft of that
flag, and was convicted of that offense in July of 2018.
jury’s verdict on Thursday afternoon the defendant was remanded into custody.
He will be sentenced on April 4th in Department 10 of the Sonoma
County criminal court house.
The case was
prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Brian Morimune who was assisted by
Victim Advocate Elizabeth Garcia. Deputy Timothy Wright of the Sonoma
Sherriff’s Department headed the investigation.