Plea agreements have been offered by the prosecution to four defendants accused of a hate crime in the burning of an 11-foot-tall cross near a black teen’s home in Arroyo Grande last year.
A deal could be reached in the case as soon as Wednesday.
Just after midnight on March 18 last year, a 19-year-old black woman noticed a glowing light outside her window. Police said that a cross had been burned.
Four months later, the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office filed felony charges against four people: Jeremiah “Smurf” Hernandez of San Simeon; Jason Kahn, whose last known address was in Orcutt; Sarah Matheny of San Simeon and William Soto of Arroyo Grande.
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They pleaded not guilty to charges of arson, terrorism and conspiracy, as well as to committing a hate crime.On Monday in San Luis Obispo Superior Court, Judge Jacquelyn Duffy said that Deputy District Attorney Dave Pomeroy had made plea-bargain offers to each of the defendants.
But Duffy didn’t announce the details of how much of a penalty they’d face.
Kahn’s attorney, Trace Milan, said that some of the defendants have made counteroffers as part of the plea negotiation process and they’re waiting to hear Pomeroy’s response.
If the defendants choose to accept offers, they’d be pleading no contest to certain elements of the charges and would face prison or jail time.
Without admitting that his client participated in the cross burning, Milan previously told The Tribune that Kahn didn’t know a black teen lived at the property adjacent to where his father, Ricky Kahn, died in 1994, in a neighborhood south of East Grand Avenue.
“This where my client and his brother would leave flowers and visit,” Milan said. “They considered it their ground zero.”But Arroyo Grande Police Department Chief Steve Annibali has said: “There are a lot of ways to honor a person’s memory. A cross burning is usually not one of them.”
The case is scheduled back in court at 3 p.m. Wednesday before Duffy to discuss the plea negotiations and update the process in which the prosecution must turn over certain items of evidence to the defense.