Long wait for justice in gay hate crime – Sonoma West

Vincent O’Sullivan’s defense attorney hopes to get the charges dropped against his client next week when O’Sullivan comes to court for the twenty-third time accused of making bomb threats targeting Guerneville’s gay population.

The hate-crime case against O’Sullivan “is very complex,” said attorney Martin Woods in court last month when O’Sullivan was supposed to face a jury trial on felony charges that could put him in prison for several years. “It’s a very tough area of the law to figure out.”

The fact that a judge has already dismissed the charges against O’Sullivan once before is expected to lend weight to Woods’ request for another dismissal.

What started out as a misdemeanor petty theft case last April, when a gay pride flag went missing from the town plaza flagpole, escalated into a felony hate-crime after O’Sullivan was arrested for threatening a gay barista at the Safeway Starbucks coffee bar. The case drew widespread media attention with Bay Area newspapers and television posting stories.

Probably no one has watched the O’Sullivan case unfold more closely than former Guerneville resident Beth Streets, who was instrumental last year in getting a rainbow gay pride flag officially OK’d to fly on the flagpole beneath the stars and stripes and the California bear flag.

Streets will be back in the

courtroom again next week when O’Sullivan appears with his attorney who is expected to revisit the previous court ruling that O’Sullivan’s alleged bomb threats failed to meet the legal standard for what constitutes a hate crime.

O’Sullivan is charged with violating state penal code section 422(a) that addresses “Any person who willfully threatens to commit a crime which will result in death or great bodily injury to another person,” says the state code.

 The threat must be proven to include “the specific intent that the statement … is to be taken as a threat, even if there is no intent of actually carrying it out.”

O’Sullivan told a gay employee at the Guerneville Safeway that he planned to “blow you up, you m***********g faggot,” according to the criminal complaint. O’Sullivan also said he had pipe bombs intended to go off at the Guerneville sheriff’s substation and planned to use bombs against “all the m***********g faggots” in the Guerneville area, according to court testimony.

O’Sullivan’s jury trial was scheduled in court before Judge Knoel Owen last month but was canceled after Woods said he will file the motion to dismiss the case and needed more time to prepare.

The alleged bomb threats were made while O’Sullivan was already under investigation for stealing the gay pride flag from the Guerneville town plaza last April. O’Sullivan was convicted on a misdemeanor petty theft charge for the flag theft but a visiting judge, Andria Richey, dismissed the more serious felony hate crime charge citing a lack of evidence. No pipe bombs were ever found in O’Sullivan’s possession.

In June the Sonoma County District Attorney’s office successfully persuaded another judge, Jennifer Dollard, to reinstate the hate crime charge.

“Guerneville is well-known as an LGBT friendly resort town with many openly gay residents and numerous establishments that cater to gay clientele,” said Deputy District Attorney Robert Maddock in a written court brief in support of the hate-crime allegation and an enhancement charge that gives the sentencing judge discretion to add more time in state prison if O’Sullivan is found guilty.

O’Sullivan “is totally unapologetic for his conduct,” said Deputy D.A. Maddock. “There is no dispute that the crime was motivated by the hatred of homosexuals,” said Maddock. “The threats were very serious and disturbing. In the violent hate-filled climate in which we find ourselves in 2018, the court should not reduce the charge.”

When O’Sullivan was convicted in July for stealing the rainbow pride flag from the Guerneville plaza flagpole, his sentence included three years probation, 100 hours of community service and a court order to stay out of the plaza.

In contrast to the county jail mug shot of him with long matted hair and wearing a dirty T-shirt, O’Sullivan, 56, has recently appeared in court wearing a dark grey pinstriped suit with black tasseled loafers and a pair of rimless eyeglasses, with his hair neatly cut and combed.

Since the guilty verdict in the pride flag theft, O’Sullivan had been free on supervised pretrial release. But last week he was ordered back into custody at county jail for violating his probation by twice testing positive for using methamphetamine, according to the district attorney’s office.

“I’m really glad to see him remanded and locked up,” said Streets.

O’Sullivan was also ordered to pay Streets $17.50 restitution for the cost of replacing the rainbow flag. “He still owes me the money,” said Streets last week.