SANTA CRUZ – In a hearing that drew the police chief and several downtown business owners, a 24-year-old man was sentenced Monday to two years in prison after admitting to charges of vandalism and inciting a riot stemming from the May Day melee in downtown Santa Cruz.
Jimi Haynes, a former Vanguard University student who was homeless and had recently come to Santa Cruz from Fresno County, could have received more than seven years in prison, the prosecutor said. He has a history of petty theft.
But Judge Michael Barton chose the mid-term sentence on the felony vandalism charge. It carries a sentence of 16 months, two years or three years. Barton chose not to count a previous felony burglary conviction that could have doubled the term.
Prosecutor Kristina Oven said she thought he deserved a longer sentence for a pattern of conduct that had escalated.
Public defender Kristin Carter argued for 16 months, saying Haynes cooperated with police and took responsibility. She said a lot of his troubles stem from alcohol use, and that he had eight or nine beers on May 1 and was looking for a party.
Haynes apologized for the “destruction” he caused, and wiped tears from his eyes as a pastor testified on his behalf.
Theodore Petrikis, pastor at New Life Community Church, said Haynes is an intelligent young man with potential who sometimes acts like an idiot because of his alcohol habits. He is not an anarchist, Petrikis said, despite the District Attorney’s “hunt” to prove that. He added that he hoped Haynes will have an epiphany and change his ways.
Barton seemed unswayed by Hayne’s expression of remorse, and agreed with the “idiot” characterization.
“Mr. Haynes, you really are an idiot,” he said. “…You’ve been given chance after chance after chance. You’re a thief and an idiot and an alcoholic.”
Haynes appeared somewhat agitated and smiled at times throughout the proceeding, before the judge took him to task.
He was sentenced after testimony from Interim Police Chief Kevin Vogel, who related how thin police were stretched during the riot, and after a witness said he saw Haynes shout a profane verb about police and say “let’s keep the riot going,” before smashing his fist into a window of Dell Williams Jewelers on Pacific Avenue.
Vogel said police called for help from all six other county-based law enforcement agencies, and that 41 officers were assembled within about 30 minutes to confront the out-of-control crowd. If the riot had continued, police might have had to use tear gas or otherwise escalate the use of force to quell the rioters, he said.
After the hearing, Vogel said he thought two years was a fair sentence.
Police turned the investigation over to the FBI. Vogel said Monday he believes they are still working on it.
It’s unclear who organized the May Day event marking the international labor movement, or why. It was advertised as a May Day dance party at UC Santa Cruz and other places, and drew an estimated 250 people. The “party” ended with masked rioters throwing rocks through store windows and splashing paint and scrawling anarchist messages on buildings. Rioters, some of whom carried lighted torches, caused more than $100,000 in damage to 18 businesses.
Police have said they believe an anarchist group was responsible for the violence.
One other arrest was made that night.
Thomas Williams, a 41-year-old transient, was arrested on suspicion of public drunkenness, resisting arrest and possessing less than an ounce of marijuana. On July 15, Williams was sentenced to three months in jail, 50 hours of volunteer service and ordered to attend Alcoholics Anonymous and stay away from Pacific Avenue.
Monday’s hearing drew about 12 downtown business people, including a manager from Dell Williams, Emily Bernard. Bernard testified that the window repair cost about the business about $3,900.
After the hearing, she said she was pleased with the sentence.
“I feel like it was important to recognize the severity of what he did, and I feel like the judge did that,” she said. “It’s important for our community to make a strong statement; that we won’t tolerate this type of behavior in the heart of our community.”