Latino-hating arsonist gets 11-year sentence for Marin fire

A San Rafael man was sentenced to 11 years in prison Thursday for setting a fire at a Canal area apartment building after a tirade against Latinos.

Richard Eugene O’Hara, 61, received the maximum term from Judge Andrew Sweet, who called him a methamphetamine-addicted bigot who displayed no remorse.

“This man is a racist,” Sweet said. “He has shown an unheard-of level of animosity toward our Latino community.”

The crime occurred at about 3 a.m. Aug. 27, 2015, at the Canal Street Apartments, a densely populated four-story complex. The prosecution said nearly 100 residents were in the building, including many sleeping children.

O’Hara lived in an apartment on a lower floor. After shouting “You’re going to die!” to his upstairs neighbor and “F– you Latinos!”, he lit his own apartment on fire and fled, authorities said.

“Now all the Latinos will die!” O’Hara was heard yelling.

San Rafael police and firefighters evacuated the surrounding apartments. Firefighters contained the fire to O’Hara’s unit, which sustained about $70,000 in damage.

Investigators found a gasoline can in O’Hara’s apartment, a lighter near the front door and “irregular burn patterns” suggesting the fire was intentionally set, according to court documents.

The Marin County District Attorney’s Office charged O’Hara with arson of an inhabited dwelling and criminal threats against his upstairs neighbor, a single Latina with two small children. The prosecution added hate-crime enhancements to both counts, adding to the potential prison time.

Separately, prosecutors charged O’Hara for an incident in which he allegedly punched a Latino neighbor twice in the face and threw his child’s scooter into the street.

The arson case went to trial in January. O’Hara’s public defender argued, in part, that there was no scientific evidence an accelerant was used in the fire. The defense said investigators sealed the gas can evidence improperly and did not test it for a year.

The …read more

Source:: The Mercury News

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