Guerneville man gets jail time in hate crime case

  • by Alex Madison, Assistant News Editor
  • Wednesday April 10, 2019
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Vincent Joseph O'Sullivan. Photo: Courtesy Sonoma County Sheriff's Office
Vincent Joseph O'Sullivan. Photo: Courtesy Sonoma County Sheriff's Office

A North Bay man was sentenced to nine months in county jail and three years probation Wednesday for a hate crime conviction tied to an incident in which he threatened to "bomb the gay people in Guerneville" at a local Safeway store last year.

Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Peter Ottenweller told Vincent Joseph O'Sullivan, 56, he did not believe O'Sullivan was remorseful for his actions and did not understand the impact on the local community.

O'Sullivan has been in custody since March when a Sonoma County Superior Court jury found him guilty of the felony criminal threat charges. O'Sullivan had pleaded not guilty and was represented by attorney Martin Woods.

In May 2018, O'Sullivan targeted Hank Myers, a gay man who works as a manager at a Starbucks located inside the Guerneville Safeway store off Highway 116. According to witness testimony, O'Sullivan told Myers, "I am going to kill all the motherfucking gays," and "I am going to blow you up you motherfucking faggot."

O'Sullivan was convicted last year of stealing a rainbow flag from the Guerneville Plaza flagpole with another man, Michael Tomas Campos, 35, who was found guilty of petty theft. The flag had been stolen more than half a dozen times. When arrested for that theft, O'Sullivan described the flying of the flag as "disgraceful and offensive," claiming it had no place on the pole, which was dedicated to veterans, according to an assistant district attorney's statement.

Myers was present at the April 10 sentencing and read aloud a victim's statement.

"You have given me anxiety and nightmares, loss of sleep, appetite from your hateful actions and statements," Myers said in court. "I have many frequent, sleepless nights where I have been afraid to leave my home in fear of the threats that you have made to our entire community if given the opportunity. I feel my life has been permanently altered in a very negative manner."

In his statement, Myers did not ask that O'Sullivan serve jail time, but instead have to do community service, in particular, with the Russian River Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a nonprofit organization comprised of drag nuns who frequently give grants to local nonprofits.

"The pain caused will always be with me for the rest of my life," Myers said, adding that he felt O'Sullivan had no remorse for his actions, but felt that somewhere deep inside O'Sullivan was a good person.

O'Sullivan did not make eye contact with Myers as he read his statement.

Assistant District Attorney Brian Morimune asked for nine months jail time and three years probation. He said that was an appropriate sentence given the mental and emotional turmoil O'Sullivan caused Myers and the local LGBT community, along with O'Sullivan's lack of accountability.

"He has had the highest degree of refusal to take any accountability for his actions," Morimune said. "He has painted himself as the victim even after two guilty counts from a jury."

Woods, commenting on Myers statement, told the court he does believe O'Sullivan is a good person and asked the judge to allow him to give back to the community.

"He's done enough time. More time won't do anything," Woods said.

In his statement to the court, O'Sullivan said, "I do feel bad that this all happened. There is remorse here."

The judge did not believe this, saying he was "bewildered" by O'Sullivan's behavior. He referred to a probation report from the flag stealing case in which O'Sullivan described himself as the victim and claimed Myers was simply trying to get attention by sabotaging O'Sullivan.

Ottenweller also said he felt O'Sullivan should have an understanding of discrimination due to his Irish heritage.

"The reason I am bewildered by this is because you should be fully aware of what your hateful comments mean to not just one person but a class of people," Ottenweller said. "To say the things you did to someone who has been respectful to you shows your complete lack of control and the hatred coming out of you."

The judge also sentenced O'Sullivan to 12 anger management classes.

After the sentencing, Myers said he felt the sentencing was enough and that, "this kind of behavior is not tolerated. There is no tolerance for hatred."