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California man sentenced in pipe bomb threat to gay Starbucks barista, prosecutor says

Vincent O’Sullivan, 56, has been sentenced to nine months in jail after he was convicted on hate crime and criminal threat charges following an incident at a Safeway Starbucks in Guerneville, California, prosecutors said.
Vincent O’Sullivan, 56, has been sentenced to nine months in jail after he was convicted on hate crime and criminal threat charges following an incident at a Safeway Starbucks in Guerneville, California, prosecutors said. Sonoma County Sheriff's Office

A Northern California man was sentenced to nine months in jail on Wednesday after he was convicted of threatening to blow up a gay Starbucks barista, prosecutors said.

Vincent O’Sullivan, 56, faced hate crime and criminal threat charges after he went to buy coffee from the Starbucks in a Safeway grocery store in Guerneville last year and told the barista he was building pipe bombs to blow up the barista, the store and a sheriff’s substation, according to the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office.

Hank Dixon Myers, the 62-year-old barista, said the threats gave him nightmares for weeks, according to prosecutors.

“I wish the sentence was more but we’ll take what we get,” Myers said, KPIX reports. “He still believes he’s not guilty.”

Beyond the jail sentence, the judge in Santa Rosa put O’Sullivan on three years of probation, barred him from possessing weapons and firearms and required him to seek anger management help, KPIX and prosecutors said.

A jury found O’Sullivan guilty of the charges in March.

Days before making the threat, O’Sullivan helped steal a gay pride flag in a Guerneville plaza, and when he was arrested in that incident he said the flag was “offensive,” “disgraceful” and had no place on the veteran’s memorial flagpole, according to prosecutors. He was convicted of the theft last year.

O’Sullivan made the threat to the barista after the barista (who was working alone and knew O’Sullivan was a frequent customer) tried to have a conversation with him — to which O’Sullivan responded by using a homophobic slur, swearing and “calmly stating” his intention to blow up the store, according to prosecutors.

“In a community known for tolerance of all sorts of people and issues, this conduct was rightly prosecuted and punished,” District Attorney Jill Ravitch said in a statement. “The outcome of this case should serve as a strong message to anyone considering the use of hateful speech or conduct.”

Martin Woods, O’Sullivan’s lawyer, said his client feels sorry, KPIX reports.

“There is a good person inside him,” Woods said, according to the TV station.

O’Sullivan is a former homeless resident of Guerneville, Sonoma West Times & News reports.

You have heard of LGBT, but do you really know what the letters stand for? And how about QIA? Melissa Winter, youth advocate with the KC Anti-Violence project, breaks down the terminology for you in 90 seconds.

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