A man has been found guilty of a homophobic hate crime, after making a bomb threat to a gay barista.

56-year-old Joseph O’Sullivan, of Guerneville, California, was found guilty of a hate crime threat against a Safeway grocery store.



Sonoma County criminal court heard that O’Sullivan made the threat in May 2018, after buying coffee at the Starbucks kiosk inside the supermarket.

Gay barista ‘had nightmares for weeks’ after homophobic bomb threat

O’Sullivan used homophobic slurs and foul language in the conversation with the barista, and told him he was building pipe bombs to blow up the barista, his place of employment, and the local sheriff’s office.

He had called the barista a “faggot,” telling him that “you [gay people] all need to leave.”

The victim testified that the threat “gave him nightmares for weeks.”

Guerneville, located north of San Francisco, is known for its large LGBT community, hosting the annual Lazy Bear Weekend aimed at members of the gay ‘bear’ subculture.

Bomb threat in LGBT haven: The Lazy Bear Weekend 2016 in Guerneville, California
The Lazy Bear Weekend 2016 in Guerneville, California (Knarl Stuart/Creative Commons)

In a release, district attorney Jill Ravitch said: “In our society free speech is a valuable right. And yet, this is not an unfettered right.

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“When speech crosses over into threats that are specific, immediate, and intended to be conveyed as threats, that can become a crime.”

On Thursday (March 7), a jury found O’Sullivan guilty of a criminal bomb threat, and found that the threat constituted a homophobic hate crime against the barista based on sexuality.

O’Sullivan was remanded into custody following the guilty verdict, and is due to be sentenced on April 4.

The bomb threat was not his first homophobic crime

According to the district attorney, three days prior to the bomb threat, O’Sullivan took part in the theft of a pride flag from the Veterans Memorial flagpole in the Guerneville plaza.

O’Sullivan, who threw the flag into the river, had told officers that the flag was “disgraceful and offensive.”

He was separately charged over the flag theft, and was convicted in July 2018.

For the flag theft, O’Sullivan was handed three years probation and ordered to complete 100 hours of community service cleaning the river.

At the time, Ravitch said: “There were many who were very upset by this conduct.

“The jury’s verdict reflects the support this community has for the rule of law and the right of all to enjoy this county.”




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