A California couple who were seen in viral video painting over a Black Lives Matter mural have pleaded not guilty to hate crime charges, with their attorney calling the allegations against them ‘outrageous and politicized.’
Nicole Anderson and David Nelson arrived at the courthouse in Martinez on Tuesday to enter pleas of not guilty to three misdemeanor counts, including vandalism and hate crime, stemming from last month’s incident.
Anderson, 42, and Nelson, 53, were captured on video on July 4 defacing a city-sanctioned Black Lives Matter mural in front of the Wakefield Taylor Courthouse by painting over it with black paint.
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Nicole Anderson and David Nelson (center) on Tuesday pleaded not guilty to three misdemeanor counts, including vandalism and hate crime, for defacing a BLM mural
The pair did not speak after the hearing, but their lawyer slammed the hate crime charges as ‘outrageous and politicized’
The couple did not comment on the allegations against them on Tuesday following their brief court appearance, but their defense lawyer, Bill Essayli, addressed reporters outside court, accusing Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton of overcharging his clients.
‘Had she just charged vandalism, that would be a whole different issue,’ Essayli said. ‘The fact that she charged it as vandalism and as a hate crime is really what makes this problematic. It’s a reach, it’s an overcharge. In our view, it’s a political message, and the justice system should not be weaponized in that manner.’
According to the district attorney’s office, a Martinez resident applied for a permit to paint the temporary mural in front of the local courthouse on July 1. The permit was approved and the painting took place three days later.
Nelson, wearing an American flag-themed T-shirt, and Anderson, decked out in Donald Trump campaign attire, arrived at the scene of the mural after it was completed with paint supplies.
Anderson was caught on camera using a large paint roller to paint over the letters ‘B’ and ‘L’ in the word Black, which had been painted yellow.
Video of Anderson painting over the mural outside the Martinez, California, courthouse on July 4 has gone viral. Nelson, seen decked out in Trump campaign attire, stood by
Anderson and Nelson arrived with paint supplies just hours after the mural had been finished
The mural honoring the Black Lives Matter movement has since been repainted
In the wake of the vandalism, protests were held in Martinez and the city’s mayor spoke out against all hate crimes.
But according to Essayli, his clients’ actions did not amount to a civil rights violation.
‘It was done to express a viewpoint that they disagreed with the city endorsing [the] Black Lives Matter organization, which I said is anti-police and its anti-American,’ Essayli said.
The lawyer, who previously ran an unsuccessful campaign for a state office as a Republican, accused the district attorney of being funded by democratic billionaire donor George Soros and criminalizing different political views, reported The Mercury News.
‘Just as peaceful protesters have the right to march and display their political views in a myriad of different ways, they have the same right to display their dissatisfaction and disagreement with their tax dollars being used to sponsor a radical organization, Black Lives Matter,’ Essayli said, according to KABC.
The defaced mural has since been repainted. Nelson and Anderson are due back in court on October 13.