4 suspected in Arroyo Grande cross burning plead not guilty

One defendant’s attorney says family of client wants to compensate church

nwilson@thetribunenews.comJuly 25, 2011 

Four people accused of burning a cross in front of the home of a biracial family in Arroyo Grande pleaded not guilty Monday to related charges in San Luis Obispo Superior Court.

The suspects charged were: Jason Wayne Kahn, 36, whose last known address was in Orcutt; William Michael Soto, 20, of Arroyo Grande; Jeremiah Leo Hernandez, 32, of San Simeon, who has an alias of “Smurf”; and Sara Kay Matheny, 24, of San Simeon. Police have described the latter three as homeless, but staying in those communities.

They appeared before Judge Jacquelyn Duffy and entered their pleas after meeting with their attorneys; Hernandez said he’d like to represent himself, but San Luis Obispo attorney Raymond Allen agreed to work as an adviser.

Kahn’s attorney, Trace Milan, said after Monday’s hearing that his client’s family has reached out to Saint John’s Lutheran Church in Arroyo Grande to compensate the church for a missing 11-foot wooden cross.

Police said they are still investigating the theft of the cross. Milan did not admit any guilt on his client’s part for the reported theft, however.

The four defendants are scheduled to return to court for a pre-preliminary hearing Aug. 15.

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