An armed white man who got into a traffic confrontation with a group of black teenagers protesting housing inequality on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Brickell was back in court Tuesday where a judge gave him a higher bond on new hate crime charges.
Mark Bartlett, 51, is charged with one count of carrying a concealed weapon, aggravated assault with a firearm, two counts of aggravated assault with a firearm with prejudice, and one count of improper exhibition of a dangerous weapon or a firearm with prejudice in the Jan. 21 incident on Brickell Avenue. During a hearing Tuesday, his bond was raised to $32,500 and he was ordered to stay away from the alleged victims.
The charges are brought under a state law allowing enhanced hate-crime penalties when a crime is motivated by prejudice. Bartlett has entered a not guilty plea.
Cellphone video taken by bystanders showed Bartlett carrying a handgun and yelling racial slurs at the teenagers on bicycles blocking traffic in downtown Miami. Bartlett's girlfriend was also involved — at one point calling the group "thugs" — but was not charged with any crime.
The protest involved potential loss of affordable housing in the impoverished Liberty City neighborhood. It coincided with a much larger event, "Wheels Up, Guns Down," that was timed to coincide with Martin Luther King Jr. Day and involved mostly young African-American men riding motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles at high speeds in traffic, popping wheelies and riding while standing on the seats.
Bartlett's lawyers said in an email that they are disappointed in the new charges and contended they were brought partly because of political pressure.
"It is a political prosecution, it is not a hate crime. We don’t have mob justice in America, and we hope he will be vindicated in a court of law and not tried in a court of public opinion," defense attorney Jayne Weintraub said.
Bartlett also told police he never pointed his gun at any of the protesters, according to an arrest report. Bartlett had been initially charged only with illegally carrying a concealed weapon.
Attorneys for some of the teenagers have also filed a civil rights lawsuit against Bartlett and his girlfriend, Dana Scalione, accusing them of hate crimes, assault, battery and infliction of emotional distress. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.