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Santa Barbara’s District Attorney Charges Isla Vista Landlord James Gelb

Gelb Stands Accused of Disturbing the Peace with Homophobic Slurs

Santa Barbara District Attorney Joyce Dudley announced Tuesday she would file disturbing the peace charges against major Isla Vista landlord James Gelb, who was caught on video shouting homophobic slurs at I.V. government official Ethan Bertrand on the City of Santa Barbara’s main thoroughfare on election night.

“The charge arose out of an incident occurring on November 7, 2017, on State Street, wherein Mr. Gelb allegedly used offensive language which was likely to provoke an immediate violent reaction,” Dudley said in a press release. Gelb’s arraignment is scheduled for December 4.

Gelb recently put his 37 Isla Vista properties on the market for $79 million. Bertrand, who serves as president of the I.V. Community Services District, approached Gelb to tell him he thought it was a good idea that he was selling his Isla Vista properties. The conversation quickly escalated, and a friend of Bertrand’s pulled out his smart phone to videotape the interaction. Gelb repeatedly shouted “fag” and “fuck” at Bertrand.

In an interview last week, Gelb said, “I am a pretty intelligent guy. I made no threats against him.” He was aware he was being filmed, he said. Gelb added that the Santa Barbara Police Department told him the maximum charge would be a $400 fine. Dudley said the sentence could also include up to 90 days in County Jail.

Bertrand said he could not comment on the case. But he said he would continue to advocate for full LGBTQ equality. “In 2017, LGBTQ people in our community can still face harassment, discrimination, and the threat of violence. Our community must always unequivocally denounce hate and promote diversity, inclusion, and equality,” he said.

By Paul Wellman (file)

County of Santa Barbara District Attorney Joyce Dudley

After the Independent published the video, Gelb agreed to a television interview with KEYT, according to the station. Gelb rescinded the offer and issued a statement saying he has suffered from Asperger syndrome since he was a child. “This means that sometimes I say things without any social filter. I have struggled with its affliction throughout my entire life. It has caused me and my loved ones great pain,” he wrote. He added that his brother was gay and died of AIDS 13 years ago.

On Thursday, Bertrand and Pacific Pride Foundation will hold a rally at De la Guerra Plaza at 5 p.m. to raise the profile of the LGBTQ community and protest against hate.

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