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California Man Sentenced for Setting Fire to Republican Club with Molotov Cocktail


A man was sentenced to five years in prison for setting fire to a Republican club in the city of La Quinta, California. Carlos Espriu, 24, has been in federal custody since his arrest last September, the U.S. Department of Justice said on Monday.

As stipulated in the plea agreement, Espriu tried to set fire to the East Valley Republican Women Federated on May 31, 2020. Also, the charge he pleaded guilty to was attempted arson. Nonetheless, surveillance footage seen above does show there was a fire.

According to the plea agreement, Espriu made a Molotov cocktail by taping together three glass bottles, filling them with a flammable liquid, and putting a rag in the mouth of one of the bottles, prosecutors said. He lit the rag, and repeatedly threw the Molotov cocktail into the building. This resulted in $5,426.64 worth of damage.

“It’s just kind of that thing that hangs on to you,” Joy Miedecke, president of the club, told KESQ in a September report. “It makes you feel not comfortable all the time when you have something like that happen. You’re violated. You’re absolutely violated.”

This is considered a federal crime because the club sold merchandise used in interstate or foreign commerce, authorities said. From the plea agreement:

In the early morning of May 31, 2020, defendant maliciously attempted to set fire to the building housing the East Valley Republican Women Federated (“EVRWF”), located in La Quinta, California, within the Central District of California. By virtue of the fact that the EVRWF sold merchandise that had been shipped in interstate commerce or foreign commerce, the EVRWF building is used in interstate or foreign commerce, and is used in an activity affecting interstate commerce office.

As described by the DOJ in a press release, surveillance footage showed Espriu breaking the front windows of the club using a bat, and reaching into the building to get the Molotov cocktail. He walked away, returned 30 seconds later without a mask, and threw the bottles again, causing a fire to begin, authorities said.

A dash camera recording showed him telling a woman on June 28, 2020 that he set the fire at the club, prosecutors said. He discussed his plans, attempts to get others to help, and the actions he took to start the fire, authorities said.

“The Judge’s sentence went along with the probation dept. recommendation, which the gov’t concurred,” Espriu’s attorney Leonard Cravens told Law&Crime in an email. “The sentence would have been less (the normal range was 37-46 months), but the offense minimum per statute is 60 months, and with my client’s lack of a criminal record, that is the judgment that was imposed, the minimum 60 months in BOP.”

Beyond this, he declined to comment.

Update – 3:31 p.m.: We added comment from Espriu’s attorney.

[Screengrab via KESQ]

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