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Released by: District Attorney
For Immediate Release

Guerneville Man Sentenced to 9 Months Jail for Homophobic Hate Crime

Santa Rosa, CA  –  April 10, 2019  –  On Wednesday morning, The Honorable Peter Ottenweller sentenced defendant Vincent O’Sullivan to serve 9 months in jail for a criminal threat constituting a hate crime which O’Sullivan made in May of 2018. In addition to time in custody, Judge Ottenweller also placed the Defendant on a three year grant of formal probation, ordered that he stay away from the victim, barred him from possessing any weapons (in addition to the lifetime firearm ban carried by the conviction), and directed him to participate in counseling as dictated by probation. This sentence matched recommendations given by both the District Attorney’s Office as well as the Sonoma County Probation Department.

The underlying hate crime conviction stemmed from an incident that happened on May 12, 2018. On that morning 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 a 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, a threat that the victim emotionally testified 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 to the threat. On May 9, 2018 O’Sullivan had taken part in the theft of a “gay pride” flag from the veteran’s memorial flag pole in the Guerneville Plaza. When arrested for that theft, O’Sullivan described the flag as “disgraceful” and “offensive”, claiming it had no place on the pole which was dedicated to veterans. The Sonoma County District Attorney charged O’Sullivan separately with the theft of that flag, a charge to which he was convicted of in July of 2018.

“In a community known for tolerance of all sorts of people and issues, this conduct was rightly prosecuted and punished. The outcome of this case should serve as a strong message to anyone considering the use of hateful speech or conduct,” said District Attorney Jill Ravitch.

The trial in this case took place over the week of March 4, 2019. After hearing the above evidence, the jury returned a verdict of guilty as charged. The case was prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Brian Morimune who was assisted by Victim Witness Advocate Elizabeth Garcia. Deputy Timothy Wright of the Sonoma Sherriff’s Department headed the investigation.

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Contact Information

Joan Croft
Media Coordinator
Office of the District Attorney
County of Sonoma
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Room 212 J
Santa Rosa, CA 95403
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