A Florida judge has rebuffed a “Stand Your Ground” defense from a man who pulled a gun on a bunch of black teenagers who were protesting and allegedly threatening his girlfriend.
A Miami-Dade judge declined to dismiss the case against Mark Bartlett, 54, on Thursday. He was caught on video waving his gun and yelling racial slurs at the young protesters on Martin Luther King Jr. Day as they blocked traffic in downtown Miami on Jan. 21, 2019. They were allegedly protesting a lack of affordable housing, according to the Miami Herald.
“The use of racial comments shows he was simmering,” Judge Alberto Milian asserted following Bartlett’s two-day “Stand Your Ground” hearing. “He was an angry man. He was inconvenienced. He wanted to go back to Broward County. There was no reasonable justification.”
Bartlett got out of his Range Rover with his fiancee, real estate agent Dana Scalione, while they were stuck in traffic and confronted the protesters. “Get the f**k out of here, you f**king piece of s**t,” Bartlett yelled as one of the protesters allegedly ran over Scalione’s foot with his bike. “F**king stupid n***ers! F**king dumb-ass f**king n***ers!”
(Video Credit: CBS Miami)
Other footage shows Bartlett screaming, “N***ers suck!” three times. He justified the response to the judge, telling him that the protesters called him a “cracker.”
“It’s not something I am proud of,” Bartlett stated in court. “I, unfortunately, stooped to his level. I can’t take it back. I didn’t mean anything. The words themselves don’t mean anything. It was just me playing tit for tat.”
The judge was not impressed with Bartlett’s defense that he was being “held hostage” against his will during the protest. Milian pointed out that he should have called the police instead of getting out of his vehicle to confront the teenagers who were part of the group Bikes Up, Guns Down.
“You could see he was dangerous,” one of the teenagers testified on Monday. “I was in shock. I ain’t know what to do.”
Bartlett’s defense centered around protecting Scalione from the mob of teens who surrounded her after she got out of their car. The judge ruled they were not an immediate threat to her. A jury will begin deliberations on Dec. 6 as the case moves forward.
“I pulled the gun out because they surrounded my fiancé I didn’t pull the gun out because I was stuck in traffic,” declared Bartlett while on the stand.
“I’m being bombarded, they are ganging up on me they’re coming from all around me. Then I just get pushed I turn around and I see Mark running so I was really thankful that he was there,” Scalione emotionally testified.
Still receiving details. The earlier video was the *second* time she got out of the car to harass the teenagers. pic.twitter.com/lif03bR3SY
— Dream Defenders (@Dreamdefenders) January 22, 2019
Bartlett is currently being charged with three counts of aggravated assault with a firearm that’s enhanced under Florida’s hate crime law. He’s also being charged with carrying a concealed weapon and improper exhibition of a firearm. All of those are felonies.
He defended having the gun with him during the confrontation “in case I needed it,” WPLG reported. Bartlett previously pleaded not guilty to the five felony charges in February 2019.
According to Bartlett’s attorney, he was afraid of what could have happened during the altercation but admitted to the racial slurs.
“This is frightening,” attorney Bruce Lehr stated in front of the judge. “This is not a war zone. This is a street in a civilized city.”
“Basically, what the judge ruled was that we’re not going to allow people to incite violence, to victimize and villainize people, and then to cry that they are the victims,” claimed attorney Marwan Porter, who is representing the young protesters in the case, according to WFOR.
“Stand Your Grand” laws in Florida very clearly state that “[a] person is justified in using or threatening to use deadly force if he or she reasonably believes that using or threatening to use such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony.”
“A person who uses or threatens to use deadly force in accordance with this subsection does not have a duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground if the person using or threatening to use the deadly force is not engaged in a criminal activity and is in a place where he or she has a right to be.”
However, the defense has failed before in Florida when racial politics enter the mix.
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