2nd Man Sentenced in Rioting Near Pier : Given One Year in Jail for Role in Arson of Police Vehicles at Huntington Beach

Times Staff Writer

A second man convicted of a felony in last year's Labor Day weekend riot in Huntington Beach was sentenced Monday to one year in Orange County Jail by a Superior Court judge who called the sentence "a necessary deterrent."

Robert M. Oates, 20, of Redondo Beach, was convicted last month of felony arson and misdemeanor participation in a riot. He was sentenced to five years of probation, including a one-year jail term.

Videotapes of the Aug. 31 riot near the Huntington Beach Pier showed Oates and several other young men shoving a three-wheel police motorcycle into a burning police squad car.

Prosecutors unsuccessfully sought a sentence of two years in state prison for Oates. Superior Court Judge Richard N. Parslow also rejected a defense request that Oates' probation include no further jail time. Parslow noted in the sentencing that Oates had a prior felony conviction for residential burglary in Nevada.

Deputy Public Defender Dennis J. Sakai later said he was disappointed that Oates did not receive a sentence equal to the 192 days he has been given credit for serving at the jail. That would have freed Oates on Monday.

'Made Mistakes'

"This is not your typical arson," Sakai said. "This is a guy who got caught up in a situation where a lot of kids made some stupid mistakes. It was a hot day, and there was a lot of excitement."

But prosecutors contended that Oates' actions furthered the riot and placed others in jeopardy.

At least 13 were arrested in the riot and more than 40 were injured, including a dozen police officers. The incident reportedly began when several young men tried to remove women's bathing suit tops. Dozens of Huntington Beach police officers rushed in to control the crowd and police departments throughout the county sent reinforcements.

The beach was crowded with more than 100,000 people on the last weekend of summer, according to police estimates. Most were there for the final day of the Ocean Pacific Pro Surfing Championship.

Other Cases Pending

One of the men arrested, 18-year-old Sean Boles of Yucca Valley, was convicted of felony assault on a police officer and sentenced to 345 days in Orange County Jail.

The cases of two other suspects are pending.

Oates surrendered a few days after the incident, when he learned that police were looking for him. An acquaintance told investigators that Oates had bragged about his participation in the incident and that Oates had admitted shoving the three-wheel motorcycle into the burning squad car.

Prosecutors had charged Boles and Oates with inciting a riot. A judge dismissed that charge against Boles, and a jury cleared Oates of it. While prosecutors contended that both men's action led to more rioting by others, they were aware it was a weak charge because the riot had been in progress. Oates was already in jail when Parslow sentenced him Monday. He had previously been out on bail but was ordered back to jail in April after he did not appear as scheduled in court.

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