Alexander Jerich, of Delray Beach, has been charged with criminal mischief over $1,000 and reckless driving after allegedly defacing a gay pride intersection.
DELRAY BEACH — The man accused of using his pickup to burn tire marks across a gay-pride streetscape in Delray Beach on Tuesday moved to fight the charges against him.
Alexander Jerich, 20, appeared in Palm Beach County Court on Tuesday. He had the opportunity to take a plea deal, but his attorney indicated a desire to go to trial.
Jerich, of Lake Worth, turned himself into police after viral video showed a white pickup truck registered to his father burn tire marks into the rainbow flag painted on the road. He is charged with criminal mischief over $1,000 and reckless driving.
The case stems from a video that started gaining notoriety on social media back in June.
The intersection at Northeast First Street and Northeast Second Avenue in Delray Beach was painted in rainbow colors as part of an effort to celebrate Pride Month, an international recognition of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer people.
One day after it was unveiled, a set of skid marks defaced the brightly colored artwork. Video of the incident posted on social media shows a pickup truck doing a tire burnout across the intersection as other drivers honk their horns.
The drivers were part of a birthday rally for former President Donald Trump, whose birthday was the following day, on June 14. The route from Delray Marketplace on Lyons Road to Atlantic Avenue downtown was pre-planned, according to the arrest report.
The video shows a pickup truck with a blue “all aboard the Trump train” flag flying from the rear of the truck. An SUV driving in front of the truck also appears to have a Trump flag affixed to it.
Detectives used the video in their investigation, said Delray police spokesman Ted White. The person who took the video wanted to remain anonymous, the arrest report says.
Gay rights advocates expressed frustration that Jerich wasn’t charged with a hate crime.
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Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg said he believes Jerich was motivated by prejudice but that Florida’s legal standard prevented his office from charging Jerich with a hate crime because the victim is the city, not an individual person.
Florida defines a hate crime as “a committed or attempted criminal act by any person or group of persons against a person or the property of another person or group, which in any way constitutes an expression of hatred toward the victim because of his/her personal characteristics.”
The original cost of the painting was about $16,000 and repainting will cost about $7,000, city officials have said.
If he’s convicted, Jerich could face up to six years in prison, Aronberg said. The state also will seek restitution for the costs of repainting, he said.
Jerich is due back in court on Feb. 11.