San Diego

A man who admitted firebombing a black family’s truck and burning a cross in their lawn to get them to move out of his Normal Heights neighborhood was sentenced Monday to 10 years in prison.

U.S. District Judge Earl Gilliam said he will decide in 60 days whether to recommend that Michael Eugene Maas, 28, of San Diego, serve his sentence concurrently or before a nine-year prison term that has been imposed in a separate state case.

Maas burned the cross on the couple’s lawn in October, 1984, several weeks after they moved into their Normal Heights home. He sent them a racist hate letter two weeks later, then set the couple’s pickup truck on fire in their driveway in April, 1985. The family moved two months later.

Maas received one year in prison for each of the civil rights violations and seven years for assaulting his then-girlfriend, whom he believed was cooperating with the FBI’s investigation of the incidents.


Gilliam also placed Maas on five years’ probation upon release from prison for admittedly conspiring to manufacture methamphetamine.

In the state case, Maas was ordered earlier this year to serve nine years for the attempted murder of a black man with a machete and breaking both arms of his ex-girlfriend with a spiked baseball bat.

The woman, Deana Tolentino, 28, testified that Maas beat her frequently because he thought she was cooperating with authorities.

Defense attorney Mario Conte, who said Maas has paid $5,000 in restitution to the family, asked for a five- to seven-year sentence.

“He’s ashamed of (the incidents), as well he should be,” Conte said. “He’s impulsive, short-tempered and has a low frustration level. Drugs and alcohol acted synergistically with this and put him out of control.”

Maas and his father, Earl, were named in a May, 1986, indictment alleging 17 counts of civil rights violations against the family.

Earl Maas, 52, pleaded guilty in August, 1986, to two misdemeanor counts of federal tax violations. He was released from jail nearly four months after he was arrested in connection with the racial incidents and placed on probation.