JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (AP) — The attorney for an East Tennessee State University student who disrupted an on-campus Black Lives Matter rally while wearing a gorilla mask and carrying around a rope and bananas says his client regrets his actions and was not trying to intimidate anyone.
East Tennessee State University student Tristan Rettke in gorilla mask (left) and in a booking photo (right( has ben charged with Felony Civil Rights Intimidation for disrupitng a peaceful Black Lives Matter rally wearing a gorilla mask and carrying around a rope and bananas. (Photo/Washington County Detention Center, Tenn. and Screengrab/YouTube)
News outlets report that 18-year-old freshman Tristan Rettke appeared in court for the first time Thursday after being charged with one felony count of civil rights intimidation. A conviction on that charge carries two to four years in prison.
Attorney Patrick Denton said in a statement Thursday that Rettke was exercising his freedom of speech and did not intimidate anyone.
Rettke told police he wore the costume at Wednesday’s rally in order to provoke the activists.
Rettke is free on a $10,000 bond while his case is pending.