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Hate Crime Threat Against Gay Barista Gets Guerneville Man 9 Months Jail

SANTA ROSA (CBS SF) -- A Guerneville man was sentenced Wednesday to nine months in jail and three years' probation for making a criminal threat against a gay Starbucks barista at a Safeway store in Guerneville last year.

A Sonoma County Superior Court jury convicted Vincent Joseph O'Sullivan Jr., 56, in March of making the criminal threat and an enhancement alleging the felony was a hate crime.

O'Sullivan made a homophobic slur and used foul language on May 12 when he told the barista he was making pipe bombs to blow up the barista, the Safeway store and the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office's substation in Guerneville, according to the Sonoma County District Attorney's Office.

The barista, Hank Dixon Myers, 62, told Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Peter Ottenweller the threat caused him fear, anxiety, nightmares and post-traumatic stress. He said O'Sullivan showed no remorse.

"I wish the sentence was more but we'll take what we get. He still believes he's not guilty," Myers said after the sentencing.

O'Sullivan previously was convicted in July of stealing a gay pride flag from the Veterans Memorial flag pole in Guerneville three days before he made the bomb threats. O'Sullivan said that flag was offensive and disgraceful and had no place on a pole dedicated to veterans, prosecutors said.

Ottenweller said a state prison sentence for O'Sullivan is not appropriate because O'Sullivan's prior offenses before May were only for traffic citations. The judge said he is bewildered by O'Sullivan's behavior over the three-day period because of the discrimination O'Sullivan's Irish ancestors once experienced in the U.S.

O'Sullivan's behavior over the three days also showed a lack of control, Ottenweller said. He ordered O'Sullivan to take 12 anger management classes.

Defense attorney Martin Woods told the court O'Sullivan is remorseful.

"There is a good person inside him," Woods said.

He said O'Sullivan gave 40 hours of volunteer service after the floods in Guerneville this winter.

O'Sullivan has already served 109 days in Sonoma County Jail that will be credited toward his nine-month sentence.


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