Isla Vista landlord James Gelb will be charged with one count of disturbing the peace after he was filmed yelling homophobic slurs at I.V. CSD President Ethan Bertrand.
Santa Barbara County District Attorney, Joyce Dudley, announced Tuesday that she would file charges against Gelb. Dudley said in a press release that the charge is a response to a Nov. 7 incident where Gelb “allegedly used offensive language” in order to likely provoke a “violent” reaction from Bertrand.
Disturbing the peace can result in imprisonment in county jail for up to 90 days or a fine of up to $400, according to California law.
Gelb is scheduled to appear in court for an arraignment on Dec. 4. He told the Nexus on Tuesday that he has hired an attorney to “aggressively defend” himself from the “unfounded” accusations.
Bertrand said the incident shows the LGBTQ+ community still faces hate and challenges within the local community, but said he could not comment on the charges due to the pending nature of the case.
Bertrand and the Pacific Pride Foundation will host an event rallying for LGBTQ+ equality and denouncing hateful language and homophobia at De La Guerra Plaza in Downtown Santa Barbara from 5 to 6 p.m. on Thursday.
Dudley said Gelb’s actions did not constitute a hate crime because California law defines a hate crime as requiring an action, while Gelb’s behavior only involved offensive language.
Gelb was filmed yelling profanities and homophobic slurs at Bertrand at approximately 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 7. A friend of Bertrand’s filmed the incident.
In the video, Bertrand confronted Gelb about the landlord’s decision to sell all of his 37 properties in I.V. and said he did not treat his tenants well.
Gelb became upset and began to follow Bertrand down the 500 block of State Street, shouting homophobic slurs at Bertrand, who is openly gay.
Gelb claimed that before the video was filmed, Bertrand confronted him and accused him of placing cameras in the women’s bathroom of one of his properties.
Gelb said in a statement on Friday that he was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome as a child, which causes him to say things without a social filter.
Dudley said she has never heard of a similar defense for a charge of disturbing the peace in her 27 years as the deputy district attorney and in the more than seven years as the district attorney.
She emphasized that Gelb is innocent until proven guilty and if the case goes to trial, it is a jury’s responsibility to decide whether his statement is an adequate defense.
To reach a verdict, a jury would need to determine whether the words spoken were offensive, if the event was in a public place and if the words were inherently likely to produce an immediate violent reaction, Dudley said.
Gelb listed his 37 properties for sale for $80 million after holding real estate for over 23 years. He told the Nexus on Tuesday that he already has multiple offers and will likely be relocating his portfolio out of state.
He also said that his properties are fully rented for 2018 and 2019 with backup tenant applications on file for each of his properties.