Thursday, May 19, 2022

Jerich Sentencing Withheld and New Redistricting Approved

A weird thing happened last Thursday at the sentencing hearing for the man who has pleaded guilty to defacing Delray Beach’s LGBTQ Pride streetscape.

Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Scott Suskauer didn’t sentence 20-year-old Alexander Jerich. Instead, Suskauer told Jerich to write a 25-page essay on the 2016 Pulse nightclub mass shooting. Jerich must return with the essay on June 8, when Suskauer presumably will pass sentence.

Suskauer claimed to have been surprised by Jerich’s persona. Given the crime, the judge said, he was expecting someone described as “a thug or a redneck.” Last June, Jerich used his truck tires to burn 15 feet of skid marks on the artwork, which Delray Beach had dedicated two days earlier. Jerich was driving in a birthday parade for Donald Trump.

Instead, Suskauer said, he saw a 20-year-old man who cried after his father described Jerich’s supposedly difficult childhood and inability to make friends. Defacing the streetscape, Jerich said, was part of his attempt at “fitting in.” Suskauer said, “This is not the person I was expecting.”

Suskauer told Jerich that his essay must be about the 49 people who were killed at Pulse — 53 others were wounded — and why such hate crimes happen. Since the state attorney’s office is seeking a 30-day jail sentence, one wonders if a persuasive essay would be Jerich’s get-out-of-jail card.

Rand Hoch sees Jerich as the person he was expecting. Hoch is president and founder of the Palm Beach County Council on Human Rights. He’s still mad at State Attorney Dave Aronberg for not charging Jerich with a hate crime.

The enhanced penalties for hate crimes likely would have left Suskauer no choice but to put Jerich behind bars. Aronberg said that, because the law requires hate crimes to be against people, a judge would have dismissed such a charge and allowed Jerich to go unpunished.

Hoch supports the jail sentence, even if Suskauer — as he indicated he would do — withholds adjudication on the felony charge of criminal mischief and keeps the conviction off Jerich’s record. Hoch does not want Jerich to do community service with LGBTQ advocacy groups, which Suskauer said might help Jerich. Despite Aronberg’s decision, Hoch wrote a victim impact statement, which was compelling.

The statement cited 17 examples of bigotry toward what Hoch called “minority communities” in Florida just since December. Many involved anti-Semitism and racism. Relevant to the Jerich case, a man in the town of Palm Coast, south of Jacksonville, beat up his son for wearing makeup.

“For committing a blatant, anti-LGBTQ+ crime,” Hoch wrote, “Jerich should be punished accordingly. While the main charge is ‘criminal mischief,’ his crime constitutes much more than that.

“He was not just a young man fooling around with his truck. Jerich sought to make a very public statement against the LGBTQ+ community. And he did. At a welcoming public venue representing inclusion, Jerich literally left marks of hate.”

Hoch added, “Unless justice is served, LGBTQ+ people may continue to avoid spending time in Delray Beach, which would be unfortunate, since Delray Beach in recent years has been very welcoming to our community.”

DeSantis’ new congressional map approved

florida congressional district map

As expected, Gov. DeSantis and Republicans in the Legislature largely spared South Florida last week when they quickly approved the governor’s map for the state’s 28 congressional districts. Mostly numbers will change.

Currently, Democrat Lois Frankel represents District 21, which includes Delray Beach and runs north to West Palm Beach, where Frankel lives. Under the new map, it will be District 22 with much the same boundary, including all areas west of Delray Beach and Boynton Beach. Even most Republicans expect Frankel to win another term.

Democrat Ted Deutch represents the current District 21, which includes Boca Raton and West Boca, where Deutch lives. It will become District 23 and continue to include portions of northwest and coastal Broward County. Deutch is not seeking another term. Every candidate who has filed paperwork for the Democratic-learning district is from Broward.

Farther north, District 18 incumbent Brian Mast, a Republican, would continue to represent Palm Beach Gardens, Jupiter and nearby cities. The new District 21 still would have Martin and St. Lucie counties.

DeSantis, who took the unprecedented step of vetoing the bipartisan map that the Legislature first sent him, focused his gerrymandering on other parts of the state. He eliminated two districts that have elected Black Democrats and shifted voters in other districts. By most analyses, the map could produce a state delegation of 20 Republicans and only eight Democrats, even though registration between the parties is nearly identical.

The delegation now consists of 16 Republicans and 11 Democrats. Florida gained one seat under reapportionment after the 2020 census.

The governor’s map faces several lawsuits. Without a quick injunction, however, the map almost certainly would be in effect for this year’s election. 

Boca gets new state senator

florida state capitol
Florida State Capitol, photo courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Boca Raton also will get a new state senator this year.

Tina Polsky, the Democrat who represents the current District 29, is moving south for a Broward-only district that includes some of her current constituents. Lori Berman, the Democrat who represents District 31, will run for the new District 26. It includes Boca Raton, West Boca and Delray Beach, which Berman already represents.

Improvements to Camino Real

If you have wondered about all the lane barriers on Camino Real in Boca Raton, they are part of a major improvement program on that county road. Stretching from Military Trail on the city’s western border to Southwest Seventh Street, the project will include median improvement and repaving.

For those who drive Camino Real all the way to downtown, the timing isn’t great. A separate project farther east between Southwest Second Avenue and Dixie Highway is related to the nearby Camino Square project under construction. As a condition of approval, the developer must pay for improvements designed to help traffic flow on Camino Real after people begin moving into the 350 apartments.

There is no date for completion of either project.

Temple Beth El expansion proposal

temple beth el
Temple Beth El Schaefer Family Campus

Religion Row in Boca Raton soon may expand.

On a stretch of Southwest Fourth Avenue are Temple Beth El, St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church and the Church on the Hill. On Tuesday night’s city council meeting agenda is a proposal from Temple Beth El for a nearly 22,500-square-foot, two-story mausoleum “to provide additional crypts and niche inventory to meet demands,” according to the staff memo.

Just to the south is the city cemetery and mausoleum. The memo says that the city has received no objections to the project from residents or nearby houses of worship.

Boca Bash controversy

boca bash
Boca Bash 2019; photo from Boca Bash Facebook

Boca Bash 2022 will restart the Boca Bash controversy.

During Sunday’s boat/booze gathering on Lake Boca, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers arrested a 23-year-old Boca Raton man. Cole Preston Goldberg is charged with attempted murder.

A witness told officers that Goldberg grabbed a woman “by the throat with both hands attempting to strangle her and was holding her under the water in a complete rage.” According to the probable cause affidavit, Goldberg has been dating the woman for about a year. Witnesses used a stick to keep Goldberg away from the woman.

The wildlife commission patrols the Intracoastal Waterway, which is not under Boca Raton’s jurisdiction. City council members have noted repeatedly that they have no control over Boca Bash, much as they would like to keep it from coming to the city once a year. Debate rose and fell four years ago after a woman was injured at the event. Expect the debate to start again.

Randy Schultz
Randy Schultz, a native of Hartford, Connecticut, has been a South Florida journalist since 1974. He worked for The Miami Herald until 1976 and for The Palm Beach Post from 1976 until 2014, where he served as managing editor and editorial page editor. Since 2014, he has written a politics blog, commentaries and other articles for Boca magazine. His writing has earned first-place awards from the Florida Magazine Association and the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors. Randy has lived in Boca Raton with his wife, Shelley Huff-Schultz, since 1985. His son, daughter-in-law and their three children also live in Boca Raton.

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