Tristan Rettke, the former ETSU student who was arrested on Sept. 28 and charged with one felony count of civil rights intimidation, appeared in Washington County Sessions Court Wednesday afternoon.
Rettke was arrested by ETSU Public Safety after counter protesting a peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstration in Borchuck Plaza. Rettke wore a gorilla mask, overalls and was barefoot as he offered students at the demonstration bananas with nooses tied around them. He also carried a burlap sack embroidered with a Confederate Flag and a sign that said “Lives Matter.” Public Safety arrived on the scene within minutes and observed Rettke’s actions before removing him from the situation.
Judge James Nidiffer moved his preliminary hearing to Dec. 19 at 9 a.m., and Rettke’s lawyer, Patrick Denton, asked the state to have their witnesses ready on that day.
In a statement to police, Rettke admitted to wanting to provoke the Black Lives Matter demonstrators.
The goal of the preliminary hearing is to determine if there is enough evidence and probable cause to require a trial.
“Obviously, sessions court is a lower court before it can proceed to criminal court it’s got to go through there,” Denton said. “We’re seeing if it can clear that first hurdle.”
If the court finds there to be probable cause, Rettke is facing either a Class D felony charge or the possibility of his charge being reduced to a Class A misdemeanor. If the case moves to criminal court and Rettke is convicted of a felony, he faces two to four years in prison. Denton says that his client was not trying to incite violence or intimidate the protesters, but was expressing his right to freedom of speech.