Sara Matheny and Jeremiah Hernandez
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]