OC Planned Parenthood firebombing: Florida man sentenced for advising 2 men how to build Molotov cocktail

A 21-year-old Florida man was sentenced Monday to 3 1/2 years in federal prison for advising two other men how to build and use a Molotov cocktail for a firebombing of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Costa Mesa two years ago.

Xavier Batten of Brooksville, Florida, was sentenced to more time than what prosecutors sought for the defendant, who pleaded guilty in January to possession of a destructive device.

Co-defendant Chance Brannon, 24, of San Juan Capistrano, was sentenced to nine years in prison. Co-defendant Tibert Ergul, 22, of Irvine, is awaiting sentencing.

U.S. District Judge Cornac Carney said he took into account Batten's difficult childhood, which included an often absentee father, undiagnosed mental health issues and growing up poor.


"His father was in and out of prison," Carney said. "He lived in trailers in crowded quarters."

But, "most significantly," Carney added, Batten went undiagnosed until recent years with autism, schizophrenia and depression.

Carney also concluded Batten was less "culpable" than his co- defendants who actually carried out the firebombing March 13, 2022, after hours, sparking a fire and leading the cancellations of appointments that day.

Batten's attorney, Michael Schachter of the federal Public Defender's Department, argued for 30 months behind bars while Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathrynne Seiden advocated for 37 months.

Seiden pointed out that the defendant while in custody has been resistant to prescribed medications, which differ from the ones he prefers.

Carney said he wouldn't consider that in his sentence, but agreed that Batten had significant mental health issues that need treatment. He said he would not lower the defendant's sentence so he could get out of custody sooner and seek the mental health treatment he prefers.

"You're not going to get first quality care (in prison)," Carney said. "That's just a fact of life."

But, Carney added, "I take him at his word that (the prescribed medicine) makes him feel worse."

Schachter said he understood prison is not an ideal mental health facility but he said his client has been seen just once by a psychiatric expert for 10 minutes in 10 months in custody.

"You don't get top-rate medical care, but you should get some medical care," Schachter said.

Schachter argued his client would be better off getting out of prison sooner and being treated under supervised release with close monitoring of his health issues.

The defense attorney also argued that while his client did want to stop the facility from carrying out any terminations of pregnancies, he did not want to "terrorize" the staff or medical suppliers. Schachter said that "nuance" can be chalked up to the thinking of some on the autism spectrum disorder.

Carney said he agreed with that assessment and factored it into his thinking on the sentence. The judge noted that Batten faced more serious charges and punishment if his attorney hadn't pointed out all of the defendant's challenges in his upbringing and mental health issues.

Batten read a letter he wrote to the judge, detailing how due to his autism spectrum disorder he fell into an online community when he was 10 that engaged in "thinly veiled propaganda" that drew the lonely child in.

Batten said he was experiencing a "lack of stimulation and a lack of social skills" at the time. He learned to "mimic" the behavior of others, which, he said, was a "common tactic of those with ASD."

"I'm not proud to admit I spent a lot of time in those communities," Batten said.

At the time he advised his co-conspirators how to make the explosives he said, "All I thought about was the unborn," and didn't take into account the Planned Parenthood staff.

Batten, who converted to Roman Catholicism when he was 16, said he still opposes abortion, but now understands how it was wrong to attack the facility.

He said the Planned Parenthood staff were "normal people," who felt they were doing the right thing and "do not deserve to be in fear."

"I am very grateful I came to these realizations before I was manipulated into something worse," Batten said.

Batten said he hopes to work as a chiropractor or firefighter going forward. He was also trying his hand at learning Latin and the languages spoken by some of his cellmates.

"I am genuinely sorry for my part in this conspiracy," he said. "I ask not for pity... I only ask for a fair punishment for my heinous actions."

Seiden noted that his advice on the Molotov cocktail was not a "one- off text message," but was rather part of a line of communication with the others beginning in  February 2022, and after the firebombing he was seeking to get involved with another attack.

Carney said that after the firebombing, Batten "celebrated their success with a `Heil Hitler,"' as the judge added that the attack was "cowardly" and showed "no empathy."