The California pair who are facing a hate crime charge for painting over a Black Lives Matter message on a Martinez street pleaded not guilty on Tuesday. They are being represented by attorney Bilal Essayli, who is with the Center for American Liberty in Newport Beach. He described as "outrageous" the addition of the hate crime enhancement to misdemeanor vandalism charges by Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton against 42-year-old Nichole Anderson and 53-year-old David Nelson.
Witnesses recorded cell phone video of Anderson and Nelson not long after the BLM message had been painted on the street in front of the Contra Cost County Court house. The message had been approved by officials and was completed on July 4th. That video went viral and caught the attention of Becton.
"We have to address the root and the by-products of systemic racism in our country," she said in a written statement that also praised Black Lives Matter. Since that time Becton has reported receiving death threats.
"The California hate crime law has never been used to criminalize political speech," said Essayli. "This is a dangerous precedent and proves that the Contra Costa District Attorney is a radical leftist, not an impartial administrator of justice."
Essayli held a post-hearing news conference with Anderson and Nelson on Tuesday. "We look forward to presenting our case to the jury," he said. He also called Becton a "highly politicized DA who's funded by (billionaire and liberal supporter) George Soros." He also claimed Becton is trying to send a message to anyone who disagrees with the Black Lives Matter organization and that the justice system should not be weaponized in that manner.
The next court hearing for Anderson and Nelson is scheduled for October 13th. It's expected that both sides will agree to a date for a jury trial at that time.