Man who shouted n-word and showed gun to black teens at Miami protest takes plea deal

A Broward County man who was caught on video brandishing a gun and shouting the n-word at a group of black teens riding bicycles on a Brickell bridge more than four years ago avoided jail on Tuesday thanks to a plea deal.

Mark Bartlett, 55, faces potentially decades in prison if convicted. Instead, he pleaded guilty to a hate crime and aggravated assault and also agreed not to own a gun for a decade, 300 hours of community service and to take classes anger management and racial sensitivity training.

In exchange, Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Alberto Milian granted Bartlett a stay of judgment, which means Bartlett will avoid a formal conviction but can still face probation.

Present at the hearing at the Miami-Dade Criminal Courthouse were Kiadanys Cruz, Deante Joseph and their attorney Marwan Porter. Cruz and Joseph, teenagers at the time of the January 2019 incident, were both on bicycles when Bartlett approached with his gun during a protest that was blocking traffic.

In front of the judge and the victims and as a condition of his plea, Bartlett apologized for his conduct, admitting that his remarks were hateful.

“Obviously they accept the apology that has been offered and hope it’s sincere,” Porter said. “He pleaded guilty to a hate crime. And that, in itself, says a lot. It’s no different than a jury finding him guilty.

Kiadanys and Cruz have filed a separate civil suit against Bartlett which Porter said he hopes to settle before it gets to court.

The clash between Bartlett and his wife and a group of mostly black teenage bikers happened on January 21, 2019. The group were blockading the Brickell Bridge while protesting Miami’s lack of affordable housing, in a spin -off of the “Wheels Up Guns Down” movement that spread during Martin Luther King Jr.’s vacation.

Bartlett and his fiancée, Dana Scalione, were stuck in traffic and got angry. Video taken by a bystander shows Bartlett shouting “n—rs suck!” three times and showing him a handgun.

During a court hearing in August 2021 before Milian dismissed Bartlett’s self-defense claim, he explained that he thought he was “held hostage” because his SUV was stuck in traffic and trying to protect his wife. He said he was tricked into using the n-word after being called a “cracker”. He initially pleaded not guilty and insisted he was not racist and was “like putting on a show” when he shouted the insult.

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