River man found guilty of stealing pride flag

Note: this story was updated on July 9, 2018.

A jury has found Guerneville transient Vincent O’Sullivan Jr. guilty of stealing a gay pride flag from the town plaza last month.

District Attorney Jill Ravitch announced that O’Sullivan, 55, was found guilty in at least one of several pride flag thefts that started in Guerneville in April.

“The flag, which represents not only acceptance of the LGBTQ community, but of diversity in the community at large, flies on the flagpole in Guerneville Plaza, underneath the American and California flags,” said Ravitch in a media announcement of the verdict. “As has been reported previously, the flag has been stolen multiple times over the past several months.”

O’Sullivan was charged with one of the thefts, which occurred early May 9, said Ravitch. O’Sullivan acted with an accomplice, although the accomplice has not yet been charged.

Deputy Sheriff Teddy Van Bebber testified that when he questioned the defendant, O’Sullivan didn’t deny taking it “and admitted that the flag’s presence on that flagpole offended him as well as others,” said Ravitch.

When he was arrested last month, O’Sullivan was also charged with making terrorist threats in connection with a confrontation with a Guerneville Safeway employee who O’Sullivan allegedly called a “faggot.” O’Sullivan still faces felony charges for the Safeway threat, said Ravitch. A trial date has not yet been set in that case.

 O’Sullivan’s arrest culminated a sheriff’s investigation that began in April after a rainbow pride flag was taken from the plaza flagpole. On May 5 a replacement flag was stolen.

“As they were conducting the investigation into the theft of the rainbow flags, sheriff deputies were made aware of threats to manufacture a pipe bomb for the purpose of detonating it at the Guerneville Safeway and the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office Guerneville substation. The intent was to injure members of the LGBTQ community and deputies,” said Sheriff’s Lt. Eddie Engram. “In the course of the investigation deputies from the Guerneville Substation developed probable cause that O’Sullivan was the suspect in both cases.”

Guerneville’s GLBTQ community and Bay Area gay activists are following O’Sullivan’s criminal proceeding because of the nature of the threats in a normally GLBTQ-friendly town like Guerneville.

“There were many who were very upset by this conduct,” said Ravitch. “The jury’s verdict reflects the support this community has for the rule of law and the right of all to enjoy this county.”