A Florida man who was convicted of defacing a Pride crosswalk while participating in a rally for former President Donald Trump has been directed to write a 25-page essay on the Pulse nightclub massacre as part of his punishment.
Alexander Jerich previously pleaded guilty to felony criminal mischief and misdemeanor reckless driving for using his pickup truck to burn tire marks over the rainbow-colored crosswalk in the city of Delray Beach, Florida.
Local officials had unveiled the design use just two days earlier to celebrate Pride Month, which celebrates the LGBTQ community and marks the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, considered by many to be the seminal moment in the modern-day LGBTQ rights movement.
Police say Jerich, 20, had been participating in a 30-car rally to celebrate Trump’s birthday, on June 14, 2021, when he decided to deface the crosswalk. Video footage of the vandalism, featuring a white pickup truck adorned with a Trump flag, went viral on social media.
By “intentionally accelerating”his pickup in order to “skid” across the crosswalk design, Jerich created two long tire marks that stained the mural and caused thousands of dollars in damage, police said in charging documents.
The day after the event, a man contacted the Delray Beach Police Department to report the vandalism and provided them with a recording of the incident on his phone. The witness claimed to hear someone shout at the man in the pickup to “tear up that gay intersection,” reports The Washington Post.
Police then tracked down Jerich through the license plate in the video, which was registered to his father. He then agreed to turn himself in on June 17, and was released on $1,000 bond that same day. He later pleaded guilty to the charges against him and agreed to pay $2,003 to fix the mural, according to court documents.
The Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office did not pursue hate crime charges, or bias enhancements, against Jerich due to Florida law requiring that such charges only be brought when a specific victim has been targeted.
According to the Palm Beach Post, Circuit Judge Scott Suskauer told Jerich he wanted him to research the 49 people who were killed after a gunman pledging allegiance to the Islamic State opened fire on Pulse nightclub, a popular gay nightspot in Orlando, on June 12, 2016. He has until his sentencing hearing, on June 8, to complete the 25-page essay on the Pulse shooting massacre.
“I want your own brief summary of why people are so hateful and why people lash out against the gay community,” Suskauer reportedly said when assigning the essay.
When it comes to sentencing, prosecutors have asked for 30 days in jail, community service, and five years of probation, while defense attorneys have argued for only community service and three years of probation.
Rand Hoch, the president of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, wrote in a victim impact statement that the Pride-themed crosswalk was intended to make people feel proud, safe, and welcome in Delray Beach. He urged Suskauer to impose prison time as part of the sentence.
“[Jerich] was not just a young man fooling around with his truck,” Hoch wrote. “Jerich literally left marks of hate.”
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