Aerial view of the vandalized mural.
(Via Santa Cruz Police Department)
Civic Life

Prosecutors: Up to $114K needed to restore Black Lives Matter mural

Prosecutors and defense attorneys sparred Thursday morning over the potential $114,000 cost to restore the Black Lives Matter mural in downtown Santa Cruz. Judge Syda Cogliati gave the defense two weeks to provide its own estimate, but indicated the figure must be enough to completely fix the mural.

On Thursday morning, a Santa Cruz judge heard arguments about how much money two men accused of damaging the Black Lives Matter mural downtown should have to pay — and gave defense attorneys more time to provide their own estimates, which prosecutors say could be as much as $114,000.

In late July, prosecutors say, Brandon Bochat of Santa Cruz and Hagan Warner of Boulder Creek defaced the mural by doing burnouts with a truck. After boasting about the incident on social media — later deleting the posts — the two were arrested on a felony vandalism charge and, later, charges of intent to commit a hate crime. They were initially released on a 1-cent bail, though this was later increased to $15,000 each.

More than a dozen people attended the hearing, with several saying they were looking as much for restorative justice as a monetary punishment.

Abi Mustapha, who created the mural and has been in attendance for each court date so far, said the long process of the case has been tiring.

“We’re already gone through the ringer enough times,” she said following the hearing.

Mustapha said the mural is more than just paint strokes, and needs to be seen as such by the defendants and the community at large. While she would encourage the defendants to help paint the mural themselves as part of their sentence, she feels they need to also pay something or face prison time.

“This is not just about the money — it’s about the damage to the community,” Mustapha said.

Assistant District Attorney Michael Mahan told Judge Syda Kosofsky Cogliati his office has been working with the SC Equity Collab — which planned and paid for the original mural — to best determine proper process for repair.

The group determined that the damage required power washing, he said, which would likely destroy the mural, before moving forward with repainting and restructuring the mural as a whole. Mahan gave two figures for restoring the mural: $103,000 for restoration alone, or $114,000 for restoration and a community event.

Defense attorney Micha Rinkus, representing Bochat, asked for an additional two weeks to evaluate the figures and determine whether the work could be completed at a lower cost. Her client was not in court, though Warner and his attorney attended via Zoom.

Though Cogliati granted the request, she noted that the mural “has been in a damaged state for quite some time.”

“This court is not inclined to require the city to do a lesser type of repair,” she added.

Following the hearing, members of the Equity Collab talked to Mahan to discuss next steps. He said he felt encouraged by the judge’s response, and believes the mural is getting closer to being restored.

The next hearing for the case is scheduled for Oct. 21.