MARTINEZ, Calif. (KRON) – A Martinez couple charged with a hate crime for defacing a Black Lives Matter mural last month want their day in court.

The man and woman entered not guilty pleas Tuesday.

Nicole Anderson and David Nelson accompanied by their defense attorney Bill Essayli walking out of the Justice Wakefield Taylor Courthouse in Martinez.

Just moments earlier, Anderson and Nelson entered not guilty pleas to three misdemeanor charges including a hate crime.

“We are going to set this matter for trial. We look forward to presenting our case to the jury,” Essayli said.

The criminal complaint filed by the Contra Costa County District Attorney accuses the couple of defacing the Black Lives Matter mural painted in front of the courthouse on the Fourth of July.

A mural sanctioned by the City of Martinez.

At the time, the couple was confronted by activists in the act.

On Tuesday, Anderson and Nelson deferred all comments to Essayli, who disputes the district attorney’s claim that his clients committed a violation of civil rights.

“Had she just charged vandalism, that would be a whole different issue. The fact that she charged it as vandalism and as a hate crime is really what makes this problematic. It’s a reach, it’s an overcharge. In our view, it’s a political message, and the justice system should not be weaponized in that manner,” Essayli said.

The vandalism sparked protests drawing hundreds of demonstrators into town.

The mayor has denounced all hate-related crimes in his city but Essayli says what his clients are accused of doing does not amount to hate.

“It was done to express a viewpoint that they disagreed with the city endorsing {the} Black Lives Matter organization, which I said is anti-police and its anti-American,” Essayli said.

The mural has since been repainted.

The next court date is scheduled for October 13th.

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