Cross burning suspects plead not guilty

July 26, 2011

Jason Kahn

By LISA RIZZO

Four Central Coast residents charged with committing a hate crime against a black teen in predominately white Arroyo Grande pleaded not guilty Monday in a San Luis Obispo Superior courtroom.

On March 18, Jason Kahn, 36, Jeremiah Hernandez, 32, William Soto, 20, and Sara Matheny, 24, allegedly set ablaze an 11-foot cross in direct view of a 19-year-old black woman’s bedroom in the home she resided in with her mixed race family, according to the Arroyo Grande Police Department.

The four suspects entered not guilty pleas during their arraignments Monday and formally faced felony charges of arson, cross burning, terrorism, and conspiracy. The charges include hate crime enhancements.

Kahn was also charged with witness intimidation.

In a press conference last Friday, Arroyo Grande Police Chief Steven Annibali said there is some evidence the suspects are connected to organized hate groups. He added, they believe the suspects burned the cross in order to terrorize the black victim.

The investigation into the cross, which had been stolen from St. John’s Lutheran Church in Arroyo Grande more than two weeks prior, is ongoing.

The apparent hate crime, which immediately shocked Central Coast residents and prompted community forums, has gained national media attention from the West Coast to New York.

Some Arroyo Grande leaders were initially in disbelief inferring the cross burning may have been a prank. The police department, however, solicited the support of 12 additional law enforcement agencies including federal investigators to conduct the hate crime probe.

The suspects are scheduled to be back in San Luis Obispo Superior Court for a pre-preliminary hearing which is set for August 15 at 8:30 a.m.


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4 Comments

  1. Phree in AG says:

    Lisa, WTF? “…predominately white Arroyo Grande…” ?

    What part of SLO County is NOT predominately white? Oceano? I believe its stating the obvious these types of events usually occur in “predominately white” areas. If in deed there is nothing to the history between the ring leader and the land where this event occurred.

    And what purpose (to the public) is served by harping on the error of the mayor in initially calling it a prank. Isn’t the “news” about this event the good work of the police in apprehending the alleged perpetrators?

    If you’ve issues with the mayor, fine. But don’t be snippety, have some substance to highlight, or significant concern to raise.

    (2) 8 Total Votes - 5 up - 3 down
  2. Bob says:

    it’s interesting that every time there is a crime in Grover Beach, some people in Arroyo grande are quick trash mouth Grover Beach and all it’s people as the same miscreants.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Arroyo Grande has more crime per capita than Grover beach, including murder, robbery, rape and the first known cross burning in the south county.

    Now unlike some of the folks in Arroyo Grande, we in Grover Beach don’t assume they’re all racist cross burners!

    (1) 5 Total Votes - 3 up - 2 down
  3. MaryMalone says:

    “Some Arroyo Grande leaders were initially in disbelief inferring the cross burning may have been a prank. ”

    —————

    “Some” meaning AG’s mayor, Tony Ferrara.

    It seems Denial is Ferrara’s place of residence most of the time. Just look at how he not only has supported John Wallace in the plundering of the SSLOCSD reserves, but then, after being investigated by the GJ, STILL supports what Wallace did.

    (4) 4 Total Votes - 4 up - 0 down
  4. danika says:

    Anyone hear how they came across the stolen cross? They haven’t been charged with it’s theft.

    (3) 3 Total Votes - 3 up - 0 down

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