Jury Convicts Man for Role in Huntington Beach Riot

Times Staff Writer

Robert M. Oates, 20, was found guilty Wednesday of arson and participating in a riot for his role in a melee near the Huntington Beach Pier on Labor Day weekend.

Oates, of Redondo Beach, could be sentenced to up to three years in state prison. He is the second beachgoer to be convicted of a felony in that incident. The first was 18-year-old Sean Boles of Yucca Valley, who last month received a sentence of nearly a year in the Orange County Jail for his role.

Neither was accused of helping start the Aug. 31 riot, on Labor Day weekend. But Huntington Beach police said both men, in separate instances, fought against police attempts to control the crowd.


Prosecutors showed a news videotape to Oates’ jurors and said he was the man in a camouflage baseball cap depicted with three other man shoving a three-wheel police motorcycle into an overturned and burning police vehicle.

The arson conviction is a felony; the participation in a riot is a misdemeanor.

The jurors acquitted Oates on a second misdemeanor charge of inciting a riot. Deputy Dist. Atty. Marc Rozenberg said that was a weak charge anyway because the riot was already in progress when Oates was spotted by police.

Oates’ attorney, Deputy Public Defender Dennis J. Sakai, argued to jurors that Oates could not be clearly identified from the videotape.

But prosecutors produced a witness who said she saw Oates the next day wearing the same camouflage cap and with the same hairstyle as the man depicted in the videotape. The woman also testified that Oates boasted to her about his participation.

“You could not tell by facial features from the videotape that it was him, but from the hat and the hairstyle evidence, clearly the jurors could see he was the one helping shove that (motorcycle) into the police car,” Rozenberg said.

The jurors returned a verdict after less than an hour of deliberations.

Sakai asked that Parslow sentence Oates immediately. But the judge said he needed time to reflect and review whatever materials might be submitted on Oates from a county probation report.


At least 13 people were arrested in the riot and more than 40 people were injured, including a dozen police officers. Several other prosecutions are pending, Rozenberg said.

Trouble reportedly broke out after several young men tried to take off the bathing suit tops of women who were on the beach the day of the finals of the Ocean Pacific Pro Surfing Championship.

More than 100,000 people were estimated to have been on the beach that day.