A Miami-Dade judge on Thursday night time rejected a self-defense claim by a man who pulled a gun on a group of Black teenage protesters and hurled racial slurs in an episode that garnered national interest.
Circuit Judge Alberto Milian dominated that Mark Bartlett, 54, of Broward County, did not act reasonably in finding out of his SUV and pulling a pistol on a group of teen protesters who experienced stopped website traffic around the Brickell Bridge in downtown Miami. He declined to dismiss the situation.
“The use of racial opinions displays he was simmering,” Milian said Thursday evening, soon after a two-day Stand Your Floor hearing. “He was an offended male. He was inconvenienced. He wished to go back again to Broward County. There was no realistic justification.”
A jury will now have to determine no matter whether Bartlett is responsible of three counts of aggravated assault with a firearm, increased beneath Florida’s “hate crime” regulation, as well as carrying a concealed weapon and inappropriate exhibition of a firearm. A demo is established for Dec. 6.
The judge ruled immediately after Bartlett, testifying publicly for the first time Thursday, insisted that he was “being held hostage” as his SUV was stuck in visitors — and that he was goaded into repeatedly utilizing the n-phrase. He insisted he wasn’t an angry racist and was “like placing on a show” when he yelled the slur.
“Was there any racial ingredient,” prosecutor Jonathan Borst asked.
“In my head, no,” Bartlett said. “It’s a derogatory phrase for Black folks. But racist? No.”
The substantial-profile incident erupted on the afternoon of Jan. 21, 2019 — when a team of teens had been protesting a lack of affordable housing in Liberty City by blocking the roadway in downtown Miami around the Brickell Bridge. An offshoot of the “Wheels Up Guns Down” motion that has turn into common throughout the holiday getaway, the group called alone “Bikes Up Guns Down.”
The court docket listened to that Bartlett and his fiancee, Dana Scalione, were initial caught in website traffic and grew angry. Bystander video clip launched into courtroom confirmed Bartlett yelling “n—rs suck!” a few instances. He insisted that he was only responding to just one of the young men on a bicycle calling him a “cracker.”
“It’s not one thing I am happy of. I unfortunately stooped to his amount. I explained what I explained. I can not choose it again,” Bartlett testified. “I did not mean just about anything. The terms by themselves never signify anything at all. It was just me taking part in tit for tat.”
Bartlett claimed he was being “held hostage against my will.”
Borst was incredulous, pointing out that Bartlett could have called 911 if he was remaining held from his will.
“You have been a 52-year-aged guy screaming at a person you never know in wide daylight,” Borst also pointed out.
Scalione acquired out of their auto, and testified that a youthful female protester “body checked” her right before she bought again in the vehicle, although there was no movie or witnesses to again up the declare. Minutes later on, in the vicinity of the Brickell Bridge, she acquired out once more.
A cellphone online video clip captured by an activist who was tagging along with the teenagers captured Scalione calling the children “thugs” and screaming at the teens. She accused just one of them of using in excess of her foot with a bicycle.
A couple of seconds following her tirade, Bartlett got out, walked up and held his gun and advised a person of the kids, “Get out of listed here you piece of s—,” subsequently hurling racial slurs at them.
One particular of the teenagers, then 16, testified Monday that Bartlett “looked pretty mad.”
“You could see he was unsafe. I was in shock. I ain’t know what to do,” he testified.
Bartlett painted himself as saving Scalione, who he claimed was surrounded by a mob of teens. “I pulled a gun out because they surrounded my fiancee, not due to the fact I was caught in traffic,” he testified.
His protection law firm, Bruce Lehr, acknowledged that the racial slurs have been “mean, hateful, cruel.” But he reported this circumstance was not a “test of Bartlett’s maturity.”
Lehr solid the blame on the young people who wore masks, stopped visitors, badmouthed Bartlett, banged on vehicles stopped in visitors and roughed up Scalione.
“This is frightening. This is not a war zone,” Lehr advised the choose. “This is a avenue in a civilized town.”
Even now, Judge Milian pointed out that he wasn’t shown any proof that the teenagers had been a threat. “I didn’t see any of the protesters doing anything at all violent,” he stated. “I do see Ms. Scalione engaged in some extremely heated arguments and intense posturing.”