Two men from California are scheduled to stand trial in connection to a hate crime after doing multiple burnouts on a street in Santa Cruz that damaged a Black Lives Matter mural back in July.
The men – Brandon Bochat, 20, and Hagan Warner, 19 – will be facing felony vandalism and reckless driving with a hate crime enhancement following their admittance to vandalizing the mural on Center Street last July 23. However, they both denied any racial motivation in connection to their actions, per the Santa Cruz Sentinel.
Two Men from California Say Actions Were Not Racially Motivated
On Wednesday, Santa Cruz Police Department officer Elliot Rock told the court that the two men’s anger was towards the BLM movement and not Black People. Their lawyers have also gone against the hate crime enhancement, claiming that BLM is not a protected class.
“BLM is not a protected group, it is a political organization. It is a very of the moment, very important and very popular movement right now,” Bochat’s attorney, Micha Rinkus, said, as per the Sentinel. “If this act was done towards animus of a racial group, that is one thing. The act was political.”
Jeffrey Stotter, Warner’s attorney, added that his client’s actions were motivated by alcohol and “stupidity,” not racism.
Meanwhile, Santa Cruz County Prosecutor Michael Mahan disagreed with these claims. He argued that the two men’s actions demonstrated an “ongoing pattern.” Mahan reportedly showed a video from Bochat’s social media account. It showed the two defendants with other boys, yelling “White power” and making Nazi salutes.
Another video dated Jan. 16 showed Bochat driving and making racial comments while holding a firearm that the court was unable to determine as real or fake.
“To say this is them being boys doing something stupid truly minimizes what happened,” Mahan allegedly said. “There are other ways to make a political statement.”
The ongoing cost of the mural in question was $216,206.26, per Sean McGowen, the Santa Cruz Equity Collaboration Founder. He added that the estimated cost for repairing the mural would be around $115,000.
The two defendants are scheduled to go back to court on Jan. 5.