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Friday, September 24, 2021
METRO  |  CRIME

Police investigate hate crime directed at UF law professor

A UF professor found an anti-gay comment scratched into the paint of his car Monday morning. University Police is investigating it as a hate crime.

At about 11:40 a.m. Monday, police responded to a criminal mischief call at the law school parking lot, said UPD spokesman Maj. Brad Barber in an interview Wednesday.

The incident occurred at a parking lot outside Holland Hall, according to the University Police’s website.

Police met with professor Lee-ford Tritt, who discovered his car had been vandalized some time after he parked it earlier that morning, Barber said.

Because the investigation is ongoing, University Police did not release an incident report before press time.

Tritt, a Levin College of Law professor, found “f----t” scratched on the driver-side door after he returned from teaching a class, police said.

Tritt could not be reached for comment.

Following the incident, Robert Jerry, dean of the law college, emailed law students Tuesday condemning the act and asking students to report any information about the vandalism.

“The conduct is disgusting and utterly repugnant,” he wrote. “Speaking for everyone in the law school community, we condemn and deplore it.”

On Wednesday, UF President Bernie Machen issued a statement of his own.

“The conduct is both unacceptable at our university — or anywhere else — and is illegal,” he said in the statement. “We will not tolerate this kind of behavior on our campus.”

This isn’t the first time a hate crime has been reported on campus. In 2009, a swastika was spray-painted on the side of the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity house, according to Alligator archives.

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According to Tritt’s resume on the law college’s website, Tritt came to UF in 2005.

He started as an associate professor and has held many roles, including his current position as director of the Center for Estate Planning.

Students voted Tritt “College of Law Professor of the Year” for three consecutive school years: 2009, 2010 and 2011.

In response to Monday’s incident, Bridget Siegel, president of Pride Student Union, said her organization will contact members of OUTLaw, the college’s gay-straight alliance group.

Siegel said the incident is not to be taken lightly.

“There are so many other ways to express yourself, and hatred isn’t something that should be necessary,” she said.

Police do not have a suspect, but Barber said officers will continue to look for the person responsible.

“Our officers will vigorously investigate this particular incident,” he said. “A hate crime is a very serious offense, and we treat it that way.”

Anyone with information about the incident should contact UPD at 352-392-1111.

Contact Chris Alcantara at calcantara@alligator.org.

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