Sara Matheny and Jeremiah Hernandez

A judge has subtracted three years from the prison sentence of a San Simeon, California man’s sentence for burning a cross outside an African American family’s home, according to local news source The Tribune.

On March 18, 2011, Jeremiah Hernandez, Jason Kahn and two other defendants — William Soto and Sarah Matheny — stole an 11-foot cross from a local church, then placed it in the ground in front of a home occupied by an African American family and set it ablaze. The occupants of the house were not present at the time, but the neighbors were, including an African-American teenager, whose bedroom was just 23 feet from the burning cross.

In August, an appellate court overturned two convictions for 26-year-old Jeremiah Hernandez, who was convicted of multiple counts of terrorism for burning a cross outside an African American teen’s bedroom window in 2011. He had previously been found guilty of arson, terrorism in the form of a cross burning, terrorism in the form of arson targeting a person’s race, and conspiracy to commit a crime. They also found him guilty of committing hate crimes.

The court ruled that Hernandez’s arson and terrorism in the form of arson convictions were not valid when coupled with a terrorism conviction for burning a cross.

San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge Jacquelyn Duffy sentenced Hernandez to the eight-year term. With the two convictions overturned, and credit for time served, he could be out in 401 days with credit for good behavior.

“Crime will go up in this county as soon as this defendant is released from custody,” Deputy District Attorney Dave Pomeroy told the court during re-sentencing, noting that Hernandez has an “extensive” criminal past. Hernandez even tried to start a criminal outfit called the Outlaws while in jail. Pomeroy told the court that he presents an ongoing danger to the community. “ He’s dedicated his life to crime.”

[Image Credit:  Sara Matheny and Jeremiah Hernandez, via The Tribune]

By Hypatia Livingston

"Reserve your right to think, for even to think wrongly is better than not to think at all."Writer, thinker, researcher, philosopher.

6 thoughts on “California Cross Burner’s Sentence Reduced”
  1. I’m torn on this one. On one hand you have an obviously and seriously demented group of individuals here, burning crosses and trying to scare black people. They commited acts of aggression and should be punished. On the other hand, we do have one less cross.

    1. That was pretty funny but I don’t see any reason to reduce it when it seems these people are dead set on causing chaos like this. Cross or something else it still seems like a hate crime with a long list behind them of not learning the lesson the first time around.

      1. I’m not saying they were in any way right. I was very clear in my post that they had commited an act of aggression and deserved punnishment. However, when you start using terms like “hate crime” I’m out. That would be like combining an act of aggression with a “thoughtcrime”. I can’t buy into the whole thoughtcrime concept. While I consider racism and bigotry to be vile and distasteful, I don’t consider them punishable offenses unless ostracizing the persons involved would be punnishment. Other than that, I believe in freedom of association, completely and wholeheartedly.

  2. How can this not be a hate crime? It was directed at this African American family. 401 days? Seriously? What a shame. I hope that someone gets this guy in prison before he is released on “good behavior”.

    1. He didn’t get 401 days. There is 401 days left after the time he has already served on the sentence from 2011. And the hate crime wasn’t overturned – it was the two charges for the same crime that was overturned. I deplore his actions and what he stands for, too, but that doesn’t give the judges/prosecutors the right to abuse their positions.

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