The Florida man accused of leaving skid marks on a rainbow Pride intersection during a Trump birthday rally in June turned down a plea deal Tuesday and has chosen to face a jury trial instead.
Prosecutors in Palm Beach County charged Alexander Jerich, 20, with multiple counts of criminal mischief and reckless driving related to the incident which took place in Delray Beach on Monday, June 14, and was caught on a video that went viral. Jerich faces up to six years in prison and full restitution if convicted on all charges.
Video of the incident showed a truck flying a “Trump train” flag intentionally burning out on the Delray Beach intersection of Northeast First Street and Northeast Second Avenue this past June during a Trump birthday rally through the city’s streets. The civic streetscape, which was created to celebrate Pride Month and the local LGBTQ+ community, had been officially unveiled to the public only two days earlier at a cost of over $16,000 according to the Sun-Sentinel. Officials estimated it will cost another $7,000 to repaint.
In a statement issued in August, Dave Aronberg, Palm Beach County State Attorney, alleged Jerich was “motivated by prejudice” as evidenced by “a witness who heard someone scream to the defendant to ‘tear up that gay intersection.’” However, prosecutors declined to bring additional charges under Florida’s hate crime laws and Combatting Public Disorder Act, saying Jerich’s alleged actions did not meet the criteria for such charges.
“We were, however, unable to apply Florida’s hate crime enhancement statute because the law requires that the defendant select a specific victim based on sexual orientation,” Aronberg continued. “Since the Pride streetscape is the property of the City of Delray Beach, the city is the named victim. Since a city has no sexual orientation, the state’s hate crime enhancement law cannot apply.”
Local activists were not pleased with Aronberg’s decisions. Palm Beach County Human Rights Council President Rand Hoch told WPEC in August he was “shocked” that Jerich would not be facing hate crime enhancements.
“Here, the ‘victim’ is the Delray Beach LGBTQ+ Pride Streetscape, which was installed to recall and celebrate the achievements of the LGBTQ+ community, a protected class,” Hoch said in August. “Jerich did not pick a random place to commit this crime. This man deliberately selected the intersection where the Delray Beach LGBTQ+ Streetscape is located.”
Jerich is next scheduled to appear in court in February of next year.