April 23, 2024
Meals vans in downtown San Diego. Picture by Chris Jennewein

A person who was discovered responsible of setting his personal meals truck on hearth with a purpose to acquire insurance coverage cash and donations was sentenced Wednesday to 5 years and 4 months in state jail.

27-year-old Avonte Hartsfield was convicted final month of setting his Rollin Roots meals truck ablaze in Kearny Mesa on Oct. 31, 2021, after which claiming that the fireplace was a part of a sequence of hate crimes perpetrated in opposition to him with a purpose to solicit lots of of hundreds of {dollars} in insurance coverage cash and charitable donations.

Hartsfield raised round $100,000 by means of a GoFundMe marketing campaign, acquired greater than $235,000 from his insurance coverage firm, and accepted a $20,000 donation from the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation shortly after the fireplace.

He represented himself in the course of the trial and maintained that he had nothing to do with the fireplace and was at dwelling when the blaze broke out. Incriminating statements he made throughout a telephone dialog with a San Diego police detective had been the results of a coerced and false confession, he claimed.

At his sentencing listening to, Hartsfield mentioned he deliberate to attraction the convictions.

“I do perceive that the prosecution and the courtroom want to see an acceptance of duty. Nevertheless, nonetheless, I’m denying the truth that I used to be even there,” Hartsfield mentioned.

In arguing for the five-year, four-month most time period, Deputy District Legal professional Judy Taschner mentioned Hartsfield had not proven regret or taken duty to this point, and continued to assert others had a hand within the hearth.

“There’s no one on this case in charge however himself,” the prosecutor mentioned.

Hartsfield instructed police that within the days main as much as the fireplace, his truck and workplace had been damaged into a number of instances and a few of his tools had been vandalized. He additionally mentioned he discovered a makeshift noose hanging in his workplace.

Taschner instructed jurors that surveillance footage from a enterprise close to Hartsfield’s workplace positioned him on the scene simply earlier than the fireplace broke out.

The meals truck will not be seen within the footage, however a person that legislation enforcement says was Hartsfield is seen strolling within the path of the truck. A short while later, the identical man walks again the way in which he got here and flickering lights might be seen from the realm the place the truck was parked.

A automobile resembling Hartsfield’s private car might be seen arriving on the scene and leaving quickly after the time of the fireplace, prosecutors mentioned.

In telephone conversations with SDPD detective John Clayton, Hartsfield’s account of how the fireplace began modified a number of instances. He initially instructed police he had parked the truck exterior his workplace on the evening of the fireplace, went dwelling, then discovered the truck burned down the next day.

After Clayton acknowledged that Hartsfield was noticed on surveillance footage, Hartsfield defined that he had gone again to the workplace to verify on issues because of current break-ins, however didn’t see anybody there and left earlier than the fireplace started.

Hartsfield later revised this account, telling Clayton that whereas there, a person armed with a gun threatened him, prompting him to run and head dwelling.

After Clayton instructed him that he didn’t imagine the gunman story, Hartsfield mentioned the fireplace was really began by a rice cooker he left on within the truck. When the rice cooker sparked the fireplace, Hartsfield mentioned he panicked and left.

When requested why he didn’t initially clarify in regards to the rice cooker, Hartsfield mentioned the individuals who had been concentrating on his enterprise would have set the truck ablaze in some unspecified time in the future regardless, however he’d hoped the truck hearth would possibly spur police to analyze the break-ins and different incidents he mentioned really occurred.

Taschner instructed jurors {that a} hearth investigation decided the fireplace couldn’t have been began by the rice cooker as described. She additionally mentioned Hartsfield made a sequence of web searches main as much as the fireplace that included automobile explosions and different searches involving burning objects.

Metropolis Information Service contributed to this report.