Hate crime defendant claims he burned cross to memorialize his father
August 16, 2011
The defendant in a March 18 Arroyo Grande cross burning who is being charged with a hate crime claims that he was attempting to memorialize the death of his father, not to express racial hatred. [The Tribune]
The attorney for Jason Kahn, 36, of Orcutt, claims that his client did not know a black teen lived at the property adjacent to where a 12-foot wooden cross, stolen from a nearby church, was erected and set on fire.
The site next to the teen’s home, defense attorney Trace Milan told the Tribune after an arraignment hearing Monday, is where sheriff’s deputies shot and killed Kahn’s father, Rick Kahn, in 1994 after he charged at them with a knife.
Kahn says he and friends had gone to the site, a neighborhood south of East Grand, to mark the date of his father’s birthday the following day, March 19.
“This is where my client and his brother would leave flowers and visit,” Milan said. “They considered it their ground zero. It was the place where their father had died.”
Arroyo Grande police chief Steve Annibali, however, took issue with the claim: “There’s lots of ways to honor a person’s memory.” Cross burning “is usually not one of them.”
Although defendants claim the cross burning was part of a memorial, marking the site where Kahn’s father died, they originally attempted to place the cross into a hole they dug in the front of the black teen’s house.
When that attempt failed because of low hanging tree branches, they dragged the heavy cross to the side of the house and placed it directly in front of the black teen’s bedroom.
Four people have pleaded not guilty to felony charges that include arson and terrorism: Kahn; William Soto, 20, of Arroyo Grande; Jeremiah Hernandez, 32, of San Simeon; and Sara Matheny, 24, of San Simeon.