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Arson Suspect Pleads Not Guilty in Sake House Fire

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By Jorge Casuso

July 21, 2020 -- A West Hills teenager accused of setting fire to a sushi restaurant during the May 31 Santa Monica riots pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a federal arson charge.

Micah Tillmon, 19, was arrested without incident by local and federal authorities July 1 after security video from Sake House by Hikari, at 4th Street and Santa Monica Boulevard, allegedly tied him to the arson fire.

Tillmon is also facing looting and commercial burglary charges in a complaint filed by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office that will be tried after the federal case, authorities said.

After taking Tillmon’s guilty plea, U.S. Magistrate Judge Pedro V. Castillo scheduled a status conference for August 3 and a tentative jury trial date of September 15, according to the City News Service.

The arson charge carries a mandatory minimum of five years in federal prison and a maximum sentence of 20 years if Tillmon is convicted, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Gisselle Alexis Pinto, 19, and Mynor Pinto, 18, were also arrested in connection with the Sake House fire and for looting seven Santa Monica stores ("Three Suspects Arrested for Arson, Looting During Violent Protests in Santa Monica," July 1, 2020).

A security video from Sake House allegedly shows Tillmon setting the restaurant on fire using a homemade incendiary device.

In the video, Tillmon is shown removing “a red tube-shaped object from his jacket, which he placed behind the reception desk area of the restaurant before walking away," according to the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint.

"Within seconds of that action, smoke and fire appeared from the area," the affidavit states.

Santa Monica Fire Department investigators determined the red object caused the fire that destroyed the interior of the small brick restaurant.

The Sake House was one of ten Santa Monica businesses that sustained fire or smoke damage during the rioting and looting spree that swept through Downtown Santa Monica virtually unchecked on May 31.

Damage assessments found that 225 Santa Monica businesses had general damage, such as visible broken windows and doors, and 76 had "visible evidence of looting."

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