Ethan Bertrand, board president of the Isla Vista Community Services District, faced verbal abuse and slurs at the hands of Gelb last year.
Paul Wellman

Over five months after a State Street confrontation between an Isla Vista landlord and elected official went viral, a court case filed by the county appears to be coming to a close.

On Thursday, a legal representative for Del Playa Rentals’ James Gelb entered a plea of not guilty to one count of disturbing the peace. Gelb was not at the hearing.

Earlier that day, Griselda Carreon, Gelb’s representative, argued that the prosecution had not specified what offensive language had triggered the charges. Judge Raimundo Montes de Oca dismissed the objection, saying that the prosecution had provided enough evidence of what was said during the confrontation.

Gelb was shown on video in November repeatedly shouting slurs at Ethan Bertrand, board president of the Isla Vista Community Services District. A few days later, District Attorney Joyce Dudley announced via press release that she was charging Gelb with one count of disturbing the peace, referring to “offensive language which was likely to provoke an immediate violent reaction.”

A person charged with disturbing the peace, as defined by California Penal Code, “uses offensive words in a public place which are inherently likely to provoke an immediate violent reaction.” Carreon also argued on Gelb’s behalf that while the language was distasteful, none provoked the victim into committing an act of violence. Montes de Oca also denied that objection.

“Hate has no place in our community,” Bertrand said in an interview. “Even in 2018, members of our LGBTQ community still face discrimination, mistreatment, and the threat of violence. I’m proud to stand up against homophobic hate, and grateful for the work of local leaders to make Santa Barbara County a safer, more accepting place for members of the LGBTQ community.”

If convicted of the misdemeanor, Gelb may face up to 90 days in jail, a fine of up to $400, or a combination of both. The court date is set for June 4.


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