TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WIAT) — The man who slashed an inflatable caricature of President Donald Trump during a college football game in Tuscaloosa last November, will be required to undergo a pre-trial diversion program and to pay back the group that owned the balloon.
Hoyt Hutchinson, 32, of Tuscaloosa, was recently ordered to enter the Tuscaloosa County District Attorney’s Second Chance program, a diversion program where Hutchinson will be required to attend counseling, as well as participate in community service, for popping “Baby Trump,” a balloon used to protest Trump that is typically set up in whatever city he is visiting.
In addition, Hutchinson will be required to pay $3,500 to People’s Motorcade, the group that rents out “Baby Trump.” It is possible that if Hutchinson stays in the program and out of trouble, the case and charges could be removed from his record.
“We had toiled with the idea of wanting to see what the people of Alabama and Tuscaloosa would think if the evidence was presented, but as an attorney, we always have to weigh what happens in real life with our clients,” said Josh Swords, Hutchinson’s attorney. “After Hoyt and his family and I talked a good length, instead of trying to push toward a trial, we felt like based on the facts, it would be of the best interest to take a dismissal.”
On Nov. 9, Trump came to Tuscaloosa to attend the football game between Alabama and LSU. Not far from Bryant-Denny Stadium, protesters set up a “Baby Trump” balloon at the corner of Hackberry Lane and 15th Street.
Prior to slashing the balloon, Hutchinson filmed himself in a now-private Facebook video talking about how he was going to pop it.
“I don’t know how many of y’all Republicans out there got any balls about yourself, but they got that Baby Trump balloon down here on campus right now and I’m going down here to make a scene, so y’all watch the news. If you got any balls, come join me,” Hutchinson said. “This is pathetic. I’m fixing to get rowdy, so y’all pay attention. I’m shaking, I’m so mad right now, but I’m fixing to go, I’m fixing to pop this balloon, without a doubt. Stay tuned. Should be interesting.”
According to the Tuscaloosa Police Department, officers arrived at the “Baby Trump” location after 1 p.m. Nov. 9 and observed Hutchinson cut into the balloon and then tried to flee the scene. Hutchinson was subsequently arrested and charged with first-degree criminal mischief, a Class C felony.
Swords said the reason Hutchinson considered going to trial despite confessing to the crime was the idea that other people in Tuscaloosa County might support what he did.
“When this event occurred, Hoyt had a lot of support for him,” he said. “There were people who felt that for the President to come to a football game here, that was a high point in history, even though it was a college football game.
“There are a lot of people Hoyt believes felt that bringing something that would degrade a government official while attending a game was almost a slap in the face and deserved some kind of action.”
Swords said that Hutchinson was not under the influence of any substances or alcohol at the time he destroyed the balloon, but let his emotions get the best of him.
“He was driven more by passion and emotion,” he said.
That passion and emotion were on full display during an appearance on the “Rick & Bubba Show” after his arrest, where he said destroying “Baby Trump” was a matter of “good versus evil.”
“It comes a point when you gotta take a stand,” Hutchinson said during the interview. “We don’t have two parties anymore. We have good versus evil. When you got one party that says it’s OK to kill babies and by the way, this is the first time I’m ever seen a liberal get mad about chopping up a baby.”
Nonetheless, Swords said Hutchinson knows that what he did was wrong.
“When it comes to right and wrong, he is making amends for the damage he did and has a better understanding of what is going to be required of him, regardless of political beliefs,” he said.
Jim Girvan, founder of People’s Motorcade, said he hopes Hutchinson takes advantage of the program to deal with the issues that encouraged him to destroy the “Baby Trump” balloon in the first place.
“The jury is still out on whether or not the level of punishment will do that,” Girvan said.
After his arrest, Hutchinson set up a GoFundMe account to pay for his legal bills. As of Thursday, nearly $48,000 had been raised. To Girvan, this is a problem.
“I think our greatest concern is the fact that he apparently financially benefited from a criminal act,” he said. “We have pursued GoFundME because we feel like it is a violation of their policies. That is the most concerning thing because if that is the case, it’s encouragement for others to do so.”