MIAMI – A man who wielded a gun on Miami’s Brickell Avenue Bridge while yelling racial slurs to protesters on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 2019 accepted a plea deal Tuesday, pleading guilty to all five counts in the case and was sentenced to a total of 20 years of probation.
Mark Bartlett initially claimed he was “standing his ground” during the incident.
As part of the plea deal, he is not permitted to have any contact with the victims and he must complete 320 community service hours, take anger management classes and attend racial sensitivity training.
He will also be required to make a statement of remorse in open court.
If he violates any of the terms, he could be sentenced to 55 years in state prison.
The judge in the case said Tuesday that if it weren’t for the fact that everyone, including the victims, are agreeing to the terms, he wouldn’t accept the plea -- calling it a very good plea.
On MLK Day in 2019, a group of teenagers, boys, and girls ― some as young as 11 years old — protested the lack of affordable housing in Miami. The group rode their bicycles to Brickell as part of “Bikes Up, Guns Down,” a nationwide movement for public MLK Day group ride-outs to protest racial injustice.
One boy held up a “Save Liberty Square” sign, referring to the community where a historic public housing project for Blacks first opened in 1937. “Black Lives Matter!” some of the teens shouted since the Liberty City neighborhood has remained predominantly Black for decades even though the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1968 ended racial segregation.
A witness video shows Bartlett yelling at a protester who was holding a “Preserve Affordable Housing” sign. Bartlett shouted, “Get in front of my car! You f***ing piece of s***,” and “N****** suck!”
Despite all of Bartlett’s provocations, videos show the group of demonstrators didn’t react with violence or wield any weapons. Witnesses said the group was there to protest peacefully and it was Bartlett and his then-girlfriend, Dana Scalione, who threatened them.
When the protesters blocked the bridge, Scalione was a passenger waiting in Bartlett’s Range Rover.
Scalione got out of the SUV. Videos show she walked around frantically, confronting the young protesters on Brickell Avenue. A witness’ video shows Scalione saying, “You are going to end up in jail,” “Please, move your bike,” “I have kids I need to pick up! You guys are blocking me,” and “This is not saving your cause.”
Another witness’ video shows Scalione accusing a teenage boy of running over her foot, calling them “a bunch of thugs” and pushing a boy. He didn’t push her back.
Bartlett eventually jumped out of the Range Rover while holding a loaded gun.
“Get the f*** out of here! You f***ing piece of s***. You f***ing losers,” Bartlett said.
Scalione pulled out her phone and continued to shout, “You ran over my foot!”
“You f***ing, stupid n******,” Bartlett said.
Bartlett later said after getting out of jail that he had decided to confront the protesters while armed because he feared for Scalione’s safety.
Bartlett addressed the court Tuesday, saying he apologizes for his actions that day and the words he used.
“I apologize for my conduct that day. I was wrong to use those words,” he said.
One of the victims, Deante Joseph, told reporters outside the courtroom that he wasn’t pleased with the outcome of the case.
“To be honest, I’m not really happy. They should have put the belt on him all the way, no remorse, because if it was the other way around, they would have put it on us,” he said. “But it is what it is, so I think he got some type of punishment.”