Three cross burning suspects reach plea deal
April 24, 2012
Three of the four defendants accused of committing a hate crime against a black teen in Arroyo Grande last year agreed to plea deals in exchanged for reduced sentences on Monday in San Luis Obispo Superior Court.
Jason Kahn, 36, plead no contest to arson and two counts of terrorism and faces 12 years in prison.
Sara Matheny, 24, and William Soto, 20, each pleaded no contest to one count of arson and one count of terrorism. Because of their plea agreements, they each face five years in prison.
The fourth defendant, Jeremiah Hernandez, 32, plead not guilty and his trial is proceeding separately. His attorney has argued his client had nothing to do with the cross burning.
On March 18, 2011, Kahn, Hernandez, Soto, and Matheny allegedly set ablaze an 11-foot cross in direct view of the 19-year-old woman’s bedroom in the home she resided in with her mixed-race family.
Kahn’s attorney Trace Milan claims his client burned the cross to memorialize his father who died near the home of the black teen.
In 1994, sheriff’s deputies shot and killed Jason Kahn’s father, Rick Kahn, after he charged at them with a knife. A swat team had been sent to Arroyo Grande to search for Rick Kahn who was suspected of murdering a fellow methamphetamine dealer on the Nipomo mesa.
During a preliminary hearing, prosecutors argued that Kahn demonstrated his affinity for white supremacy by sporting several swastika and white power tattoos and that the cross burning was racially motivated.