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.
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.