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

BLM mural case update: Preliminary hearing finally set; prosecution will pursue felony hate crime charges

Tuesday’s move comes after the defense and prosecution were unable to reach a deal on cleaning the downtown Santa Cruz mural, and the prosecution’s plan to pursue felony hate crime charges would effectively prevent a path to a potential restorative justice solution that some activists have hoped for.

Nearly four months after Brandon Bochat of Santa Cruz and Hagan Warner of Boulder Creek allegedly drove a truck over the Black Lives Matter mural in front of Santa Cruz City Hall, leaving long tire skids over the entire painting, a preliminary hearing has finally been scheduled.

After the prosecution and defense teams were unable to make a deal on cleaning the mural, the preliminary hearing for Bochat and Warner will begin the week of Dec. 13 in Santa Cruz County Superior Court. The defense and prosecution teams met privately last week to try to reach a resolution before the preliminary hearing, but could not come to an agreement.

The prosecution plans to pursue felony hate crime charges, which would effectively prevent a path to a potential restorative justice solution — Bochat and Warner taking part in the cleanup and restoration of the mural — which has been lauded by activists, including the mural’s main artist.

The Neighborhood Courts, the county’s alternative to the criminal justice system, cannot apply in this case because it is for misdemeanor charges only. The prosecution is not planning to pursue jail time at this point, but in the case of a guilty plea, there will be a sentencing hearing.

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The Santa Cruz City Council is set to discuss a resolution Tuesday night recognizing the history and current existence of racism and white supremacy, and actionable steps to work toward a more just, inclusive, and safe community.