The vandalized mural.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)
Civic Life

Santa Cruz DA’s office delivers felony vandalism charges with special hate crime allegation

Santa Cruz District Attorney Jeff Rosell announced charges against two suspects in the vandalization of the Black Lives Matter mural over the weekend. Both defendants appeared in court on Wednesday morning. The judge agreed to raise bail to $15,000 each.

The Santa Cruz District Attorney’s office made clear Wednesday that it is pursuing last weekend’s vandalism of the downtown Black Lives Matter mural as a felony — and potentially a hate crime.

The defendants, 20-year-old Brandon Bochat of Santa Cruz and 19-year-old Hagan Warner of Boulder Creek, were arraigned in Superior Court of Santa Cruz County before Judge Syda Kosofsky Cogliati on Wednesday morning. Both defendants are being tried on one count of vandalism — a felony charge — and one count of intent to commit a hate crime, in concert — an enhancement allegation.

Warner pled not guilty to vandalism and denied the hate crime charge. Bochat’s plea is still being processed.

Assistant District Attorney Michael Mahan is prosecuting the case.

“Basically, that’s what we’re doing for the next month — there’s a ton of social media out there,” Mahan said, in correlation with Bochat’s assumed video of the vandalism posted on Instagram. “I have to see what was actually posted and go from there.”

He also moved to increase bail for both parties to $35,000, up from the previous 1-cent bail, after receiving the case yesterday. The judge settled on $15,000 bail per defendant.

As Mahan explained, due to the pandemic, the California Supreme Court has created a new bail schedule for many crimes, and vandalism fell under that policy.

“That was prior to us getting the case — we want to make sure to ask for appropriate bail given the circumstances and acts of this case,” Mahan said.

Both Bochat and Warner have been in court previously, primarily for traffic and speeding violations dating back to 2017. At Sunday’s community meeting on the vandalism, some attendees shared they were unsurprised by the suspects’ identities because of their previous reckless driving throughout the county.

This will be the first felony charge for both.

For community members who might have evidence or additional information concerning the case, Mahan encourages an open-door policy.

“Given the circumstances surrounding this, especially the hate crime allegation and the nature of what these two individuals are accused of doing, obviously that warrants some special consideration,” Mahan said. “It’s going to be an ongoing investigation, and I want to make sure to get all of the facts and evidence moving forward … unfortunately, the wheels of justice tend to move a little slower than one would like, but I want to make sure we’re all well-prepared.”

The preliminary hearing is set for Sept. 20.

Check back for more on this developing story.