A Florida judge denied an “angry” white man’s self-defense claim for pulling a gun on a group of black kids while yelling racial slurs during a heated Martin Luther King Jr. Day confrontation.
A Miami-Dade judge declined Thursday to dismiss the high-profile case against Mark Bartlett, who was caught on camera erupting on the black teens protesting a lack of affordable housing as they blocked traffic in downtown Miami on Jan. 21, 2019, the Miami Herald reported.
“The use of racial comments shows he was simmering,” Judge Alberto Milian said after 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.”
Cell phone footage showed Bartlett, 54, furiously shouting at the children, some of whom were reportedly as young as 11, after getting out of his Range Rover while driving with his fiancée, Dana Scalione, as they were stuck in traffic.
“Get the f–k out of here, you f–king piece of sh-t,” Bartlett said to one teen after another allegedly ran over Scalione’s foot with his bike. “F–king stupid n—ers! F–king dumb-ass f–king n—ers!”
Other footage introduced to court this week showed Bartlett, of Broward County, shouting “n—ers suck!” three times. He told Milian he was only responding to the young men on bicycles who called him a “cracker,” the Herald reported.
“It’s not something I am proud of,” Bartlett testified. “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.”
But Milian was unmoved by Bartlett’s explanation that he was being “held hostage” against his will during the confrontation, saying he should’ve called cops.
“You could see he was dangerous,” one of the teens, who was 16 at the time of the encounter, testified Monday. “I was in shock. I ain’t know what to do.”
Bartlett claimed he was protecting Scalione from a mob of teens who were surrounding her, not because they were stuck in traffic. But Milian ruled the footage showed the teens weren’t an immediate threat. A jury trial has been set for Dec. 6, the Herald reported.
Bartlett is facing three counts of aggravated assault with a firearm that’s enhanced by Florida’s hate crime law, as well as carrying a concealed weapon and improper exhibition of a firearm.
Bartlett told Milian he had the gun with him at the time “in case I needed it,” WPLG reported. He pleaded not guilty to the five felony charges in February 2019, according to the station.
Bartlett’s attorney acknowledged the “hateful” racial slurs hurled by his client, but said he was fearful of what could’ve happened next during the confrontation, the Herald reported.
“This is frightening,” attorney Bruce Lehr told the judge. “This is not a war zone. This is a street in a civilized city.”
Prosecutors and attorneys for the children involved, meanwhile, said they were “very pleased” with Milian’s ruling, WFOR reported.
“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,” said attorney Marwan Porter, who is representing the children in the case.
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