A West Hills teen accused of starting a fire that caused substantial damage to a Santa Monica sushi restaurant during a night of civil unrest pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a federal arson charge.
Along with the federal count, Micah Tillmon, 19, is facing multiple looting and commercial burglary charges in a complaint filed by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. However, the federal case will be tried first.
After taking Tillmon’s guilty plea, U.S. Magistrate Judge Pedro V. Castillo scheduled a status conference for Aug. 3 and a tentative jury trial date of Sept. 15.
The arson charge carries a mandatory minimum of five years in federal prison and a maximum sentence of 20 years if he’s convicted, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Tillmon allegedly used a homemade incendiary device to set fire to the Sake House at the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Fourth Street on May 31 during a night of apparently organized looting blocks from a protest meant to decry the in-custody death of George Floyd in Minneapolis a week earlier.
According to documents filed in Los Angeles federal court, security video from the restaurant shows Tillmon removing “a red tube-shaped object from his jacket, which he placed behind the reception desk area of the restaurant before walking away. Within seconds of that action, smoke and fire appeared from the area.”
Investigators with the Santa Monica Fire Department determined that the fire was caused by the object Tillmon allegedly placed in the restaurant. He was identified by Santa Monica police detectives, who reviewed numerous security videos and social media posts.
Tillmon was also linked to the fire when investigators uncovered a video showing his white Ford Explorer parking next to the Sake House four minutes before the fire started and then reversing across the street soon after the blaze began, according to an affidavit.
That same video allegedly shows the Explorer parking about 500 feet away from the Sake House, and Tillmon exiting the vehicle and looting a nearby business, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
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