A Palm Beach County judge has canceled probation for the man who defaced the Pride intersection in Delray Beach.
In a hearing on Dec. 21, Judge Scott Suskauer ended Alexander Jerich’s probation early. In June 2021, the defendant burned out his truck over the Pride intersection in Delray Beach, just two days after it was dedicated with much fanfare.
The State Attorney’s Office objected to the early termination of probation and had wanted Jerich to serve time, said Marc Freeman, public information officer for the office, in a statement to OutSFL.
“We were appalled by the defendant’s willful and malicious vandalizing of the Pride streetscape in Delray Beach. Florida's law, however, prevented us from charging the defendant with a hate crime,” he said. “We have strongly urged the state legislature to change the law to allow charging such acts as a hate crime in the future. Our office will always support the LGBTQ+ community and the enforcement of laws that protect against acts of prejudice. Hate has no place in Palm Beach County.”
Rand Hoch, the president of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, gave an impact statement during the hearing. After the decision, he noted that even the slap on the wrist that Jerich did receive wasn’t even completed.
"Our community has been both demeaned and intimidated by the defendant’s actions,” Hoch said. “Unless our justice system takes significant steps to punish those who brazenly and intentionally commit crimes of bias against the LGBTQ+ community, hatemongers will continue to terrorize our community.”
During Pride Month in 2021, the then-20-year-old Jerich was participating in a birthday rally for former President Donald Trump. When the group drove through downtown Delray Beach, he was filmed in a white truck with a Trump flag, purposefully burning out his tires and defacing the intersection. It was posted to social media, with someone yelling out to “tear up that gay intersection.”
Delray Beach public information officer Gina Carter said the dedication was, “So full of joy. We had such a large turnout of everybody, all ages, and it was such a festive and joyous feeling and then to have that happen so soon after it was really discouraging.”
An anonymous participant in the cavalcade came forward, and Jerich turned himself in the next day.
“I was just trying to fit in, be accepted. I realize now that … those are not the people I want to be accepted by,” Jerich told Suskauer in March 2022.
Suskauer assigned Jerich homework — a report on each of the 49 people who were killed at Pulse in 2016. Suskauer said that Jerich “is not the individual I was expecting” after reading the police report, and did not want his life ruined at such a young age. In June 2022, Jerich was sentenced to 100 hours of community service and two years of probation and his family paid the city $2,003 for repairs.
The State Attorney’s Office looked into charging him under Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ new Combating Public Disorder statute, but Palm Beach County State Attorney David Aronberg said that the case did not meet the requirement of the memorial honoring or recounting “the past or public service of a Florida or United States resident.”
"Once again, the justice system has disappointed the LGBTQ+ community," Hoch said. "In light of the proliferation of hate crimes locally, statewide, and nationally, Judge Suskauer once again passed up on an opportunity to send a message criminal behavior based on bias and hate will not be tolerated in Palm Beach County."