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In 2021, police arrested a 20-year-old after he burned out his tires, defacing a rainbow Pride crosswalk in Delray Beach, Florida.
Police arresting him listed charges that included "evidence of prejudice," a hate crime charge that elevates the crime to a felony. But ultimately prosecutors did not employ that charge against him in court because a specific victim was not targeted.
The driver was charged in court with reckless driving and criminal mischief and pleaded guilty to both. He was sentenced to two years of probation and community service.
After a deadly shooting at a private Christian school in Nashville, some conservative lawmakers argued the incident should be investigated as a religious hate crime. In response, people online shared 2021 footage of a pickup truck intentionally burning out its tires and leaving skid marks on a rainbow pride crosswalk in Delray Beach, Florida.
"Florida man charged with a Hate Crime for using his pickup truck to ruin a Pride Crosswalk..." read a viral tweet shared April 3. The post was retweeted by Daily Wire columnist and conservative podcast host Matt Walsh who wrote, "This was categorized as a hate crime but a trans terrorist massacring Christian children was not."
But the claim that the truck driver was charged with a hate crime isn’t accurate. Here’s why.
Florida man charged with a Hate Crime for using his pickup truck to ruin a Pride Crosswalk... pic.twitter.com/u0T3pEqAe4— Southland Post (@SouthlandPost) April 3, 2023
The rainbow pride flag intersection in Delray Beach was unveiled on the fifth anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting. Two days later, police said the driver, Alexander Jerich, left black skid marks across the street art with his white Chevy pickup truck.
Jerich, 20, was originally arrested on the charges of reckless driving, criminal mischief and "evidence of prejudice," a hate crime charge that elevates the crime to a felony, according to WPTV in West Palm Beach.
But being arrested and being charged are two different things. Police officers can arrest people with probable cause that a crime has been committed, but prosecutors file charges if they believe that a crime can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt in court.
After the prosecutors reviewed Florida’s hate crime statute, Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg said that Florida’s hate crime enhancement charge could not be applied.
"The law requires that the defendant select a specific victim based on sexual orientation," explained Aronberg in a press conference after charges were announced in August 2021. Because the crosswalk is city property and the city cannot have a sexual orientation, the charge was not applied.
Jerich was ultimately charged with felony criminal mischief exceeding $1,000 and misdemeanor reckless driving causing damage. In June 2022, Jerich pleaded guilty to both charges and was sentenced to two years of probation, 100 hours of community service and a mental health screening.
The claim that Jerich was charged with a hate crime contains an element of truth about the initial arrest, but it ignores critical facts that would give a different impression about the outcome. That’s our definition of Mostly False.
NBC News, "Sen. Hawley calls for Nashville shooting to be investigated as a hate crime," March 28, 2023
Fox News, "Nashville school shooting: Republican congressmen demand AG Garland launch hate crime investigation," March 29, 202
WPTV, "Man vandalized LGBTQ crosswalk during Trump rally, Delray Beach police say," June 18, 2021
WPTV, "Palm Beach County man who defaced Delray Beach LGBTQ+ crosswalk sentenced," June 7, 2022
WPTV, "No hate-crime charges for man who damaged Pride crosswalk in Delray Beach," Aug. 5, 2021
WPTV, "Arrest made in LGBTQ Pride crosswalk vandalism, Delray Beach police say," June 17, 2021
The Washington Post, "A man defaced an LGBTQ mural. He must write an essay on the Pulse shooting." April 27, 2022
NPR, "Orlando shooting: What happened at the Pulse nightclub attack: The two-way," June 26, 2016
Florida Statute, "Section 775.085," accessed April 6, 2023
Conyers & Nix, "Difference between an arrest, charge and conviction," accessed April 6, 2023
Cornell Law, "probable cause," accessed April 7, 2023
Cornell Law, "charge," accessed April 7 2023
NOLO, "How the prosecutor decides which cases to charge," accessed April 7, 2023
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