Arrests Made in I-4 Antisemitism Case

October 5, 2023 Criminal Defense, News & Announcements

Hate speech should not be taken lightly in the state of Florida. Over the last few years, incidents involving extremist groups have been on the rise. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) indicated in their 2022 report that Florida is one of the top five states in the country for rising hate crime incidents.

More recently, extremists have displayed hateful messages across Florida in the form of banners displaying swastikas, or ethnic slurs placed on hanging posters. To combat the growing number of hateful speeches and gatherings around the State, Governor Ron DeSantis signed new legislation earlier this year to create penalties for any person displaying hateful or threatening messages on buildings.

This page will provide information on a recent group of extremists arrested under HB 269, along with helpful information on the new laws and amendments to thwart hate crimes towards specific groups of people.

Case Details

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) published news releases regarding the arrests of several individuals involved in an anti-Semitic criminal mischief case.

According an FDLE , a group of people dressed in black and camouflage placed banners along a fence depicting swastika flags and racist messages on June 10, 2023. The banner was displayed directly over I-4, a busy interstate in Orlando. Since DeSantis passed HB 269, the group was in violation of of unlawfully hanging a sign, image, or other message on a building without first receiving the owner’s consent through writing.

FDLE worked with the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) to help track down the suspects involved in the anti-Semitic crime. On September 13, 2023, FDLE announced that they arrested Jason Brown, 48, in Cape Canaveral for hanging anti-Semitic banners along the Daryl Carter Parkway Bridge. He admitted to police that he was a member of the “Order of the Black Sun” group, which is an extremist anti-Semitic group. FDLE also announced that they obtained three outstanding arrests warrants for the other suspects involved in the case.

On September 18, a second person was arrested in relation to the hate crime. The Alachua County Sheriff’s Office arrested Anthony Altick, 36, for his contribution to the hateful messages hung over I-4.

One day later, the final two suspects in the neo-Nazi demonstration turned themselves in to FDLE. The report indicated that Ronald Murray, 41, and Amanda Rains, 36, both turned themselves in on September 19, 2023.

All four suspects in neo-Nazi case have been charged with criminal mischief under HB 269’s new provisions.

The following is a statement by Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) Executive Director Dave Kerner:

“Florida is a law-and-order state. Today’s arrest demonstrates Florida’s commitment to protecting residents from attention-seeking extremists. On behalf of Colonel Gary L. Howze II, and the nearly 2,000 FHP State Troopers who enforce our state law 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, thank you Governor DeSantis, for working to rid this state of intimidation, vitriol and hate directed towards people of faith, and for empowering law enforcement to do the same.”

Florida’s New Criminal Mischief Amendment

Beginning May 1, 2023, HB 269 went into effect to amend the criminal mischief statute, as well as establishing penalties for displaying threats or hate crimes on public property.

Under Florida Statute Section 806.13, it is now considered a first-degree misdemeanor for any person who knowingly and intentionally displays or projects an image (through any medium) onto a building or structure without the written permission of the owner. The statute defines an “image” as a visual representation of a person or object through text, graphics, logos, or other artwork or combination.

A conviction for a first-degree misdemeanor carries up to a $1,000 fine and up to one year in jail.

Displaying a Credible Threat

Under the same criminal mischief statute, a person who displays an image on a building or structure without the owner’s permission that depicts a credible threat can be charged with a third-degree felony.

The term “credible threat” is defined under Section 784.048 as a verbal or nonverbal threat, or a combination of the two, including threats delivered by electronic methods or implied through patterns of conduct that places the targeted victim in reasonable fear for his or her safety.

A conviction for a third-degree felony carries up to a $5,000 fine and up to five years in prison.

Reclassification for Hate Crimes  

If a defendant violates the criminal mischief law by displaying threatening images on a building or structure without permission, and in doing so is reclassified under Section 775.085, the case shall be considered a hate crime for the purpose of reporting requirements.

Florida legislation on evidencing prejudice while committing an offense provides that the penalty for any misdemeanor or felony offense shall be reclassified to the next higher degree if there is evidence of the offense showing prejudice based on any of the following:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Ethnicity
  • Religion
  • Sexual orientation
  • National origin
  • Homeless status
  • Advanced age

Section(3) explains that an essential element of proving evidencing prejudice is that the defendant perceived, knew, or had reasonable grounds to know or perceive that the victim was within the class delineated in the above section.

Defense Attorney in North Florida

Florida legislators were quick to respond with new laws and penalties after the uptick in hate crimes. Floridians should be aware of the new legislation and the resulting penalties if the laws are violated. If you are accused of a criminal offense that was driven by hatred towards a specific group of people, the State may be able to enhance the penalties to a higher degree under the evidencing prejudice statute.

If you or a loved one are being prosecuted for a criminal offense in the state of Florida, it is important that you prioritize seeking out legal defense. Hiring a defense attorney to represent your case provides you with the guidance and knowledge from a seasoned professional, while they work to fight the charges against you and clear your name. If you are in need of a criminal defense attorney in Tallahassee or the surrounding North Florida areas, contact Pumphrey Law Firm for a free consultation at (850) 681-7777.  

Written by Karissa Key

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