A 23-year-old Palm Desert man who tossed a Molotov cocktail into a Republican group’s office in the Coachella Valley entered a guilty plea Monday and faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.
Carlos Espriu, who firebombed the East Valley Republican Women Federated office in the 78-800 block of Highway 111 in La Quinta last May, appeared via video conference in U.S. District Court in downtown Los Angeles before U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson and pleaded guilty to one count of attempted arson of a building used in interstate and foreign commerce.
The charge was filed because the Republican group sells T-shirts and other wares, and ships them out of the state and country, according to federal prosecutors.
Anderson set a May 24 sentencing date for Espriu, who faces a minimum sentence of five years and a maximum of 20 years, according to court papers.
Under a plea deal he entered into on March 4, one felony count of possessing a Molotov cocktail will be dismissed at sentencing. The defendant must also repay the group $5,426.64 for the damage caused, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Espriu, who also faces state charges involving the same crime, remains in federal custody pending sentencing.
The non-injury blaze was reported at about 1:30 a.m. last May 31. Arriving firefighters quickly extinguished the blaze before it could cause much damage, according to the Riverside County Fire Department.
“To set the fire, (Espriu) constructed a homemade Molotov cocktail by taping together three glass bottles, filling them with an ignitable fluid, and placing a rag into the mouth of one of the bottles,” Assistant U.S Attorney Sara Milstein said.
The masked defendant then busted out the building’s windows with a metal baseball bat before lighting the rag on fire and tossing the Molotov cocktail inside.
He posted on Twitter sometime before the firebombing: “I wanna go burn s— n get hit with tear gas,” according to court documents.
A reward offered by East Valley Republican Women Federated generated tips that appear to have helped authorities identify Espriu as the suspect.
Espriu’s legal troubles are far from over. The Riverside County District Attorney’s Office charged him with three felonies — one count of arson of a non-dwelling and two counts of possessing destructive or explosive devices. He also faces a sentence-enhancing allegation of using a device designed to accelerate the fire and faces up to 15 years and eight months in state prison if convicted as charged.
Court records did not immediately reflect when he would be returned to Riverside County to stand trial, but officials previously indicated it would be after his federal matter was resolved.
He has no documented felony convictions in Riverside County.