In the case of the Delray Beach Pride intersection being defaced, the judge postponed his sentencing to June 8 and has instructed the defendant to write a biography of the 49 people killed during the Pulse shooting.
Judge Scott Suskauer said he needed to think about the exact sentencing after he learned more information during the nearly two-hour hearing Thursday afternoon. He hinted at probation, community service, weekly clean-ups at the intersection, losing his driver’s license, and jail time.
Until then, he instructed Alexander Jerich, who pleaded guilty to the crime in March, to write a biography of each of the 49 people who were killed during the Pulse shooting in 2016. The paper is due June 1, the first day of Pride Month, with the sentencing following two weeks later.
“I am not a cruel person and I never will be. I’ve been portrayed as a bad person which I truly am not,” Jerich said during the hearing.
Jerich, 20, burned out his truck over the Pride intersection in June 2021 just days after it was dedicated. He was participating in a parade in honor of Donald Trump’s birthday and the incident was recorded by a fellow driver, then uploaded to social media. After Delray Beach Police called for his arrest, he turned himself in and spent the evening in jail.
Since then, State Attorney Dave Aronberg dropped the hate crime charge in August 2021 and also chose not to charge Jerich under Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Combating Public Disorder statute, which penalizes those who desecrate memorials. In October 2021, Jerich was pulled over for driving 87 miles per hour in a 40-mile-per-hour zone. He paid the city $2,003 to fix the intersection.
During the hearing, Rand Hoch, the founder and president of the Palm Beach Human Rights Council, which helped pay for the intersection, read an abbreviated version of the group's seven-page impact statement. He called for him to at least a year in jail, losing his right to vote, and losing his right to own a firearm.
“Hate crimes are being committed against minorities because they think they can get away with it, and because they are getting away with it,” he told the judge.
Jerich’s attorney, Robert Pasch, shared with the judge that his client has a learning disability that impedes his ability to make decisions and that he was swayed by the crowd, and that he has trouble fitting in and was subject to bullying. He compared him to Lenny in “Of Mice and Men.”
His father, John Jerich, spoke before the judge and apologized on behalf of his family. He said he was angered by his son’s actions and that the day it happened, he wanted to take him to the intersection from jail with a steel brush to clean it.
“Alex has always been a good kid. He just wants to fit in, and this one time he just did too much to fit in … this was just a terrible lapse in judgment,” he said. “Alex has come down from his room many times and said, ‘Dad what do I do? I have to apologize, Dad, we have to do something.’”
The younger Jerich was in tears and needed some time to compose himself with his attorney before going to the podium to read his own statement. He apologized to the LGBT community as well as the city workers who spent their time putting the intersection together.
“I was just trying to fit in, be accepted. I realize now that … those are not the people I want to be accepted by,” he said.
Richard Clausi of the State Attorney’s Office said this was not the case of someone spray painting their name on the side of the highway, but defacing a mural representing a minority community.
“Yes, Mr. Jerich turned himself in, but it was because the police had called him,” he said. “Him being upset after the fact doesn’t really negate what he did that day … quite frankly he almost slammed into a hotel.”
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. Multiple times, people in the courtroom referred to Jerich as a “kid” or a “child.”
“I’m not sure this particular individual would make it through a year in jail,” he said.
Jerich will be sentenced the morning of June 15, a year after the case started.