Federal judge denies bail for Jacksonville protester arrested with Molotov cocktail

If convicted, Ivan Zecher faces up to 20 years in federal prison.

If convicted, Ivan Zecher faces up to 20 years in federal prison.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The man arrested for having a Molotov cocktail at a Black Lives Matter protest near the Duval County Courthouse last month asked for bond Wednesday morning.

Ivan Zecher, 27, was arrested May 31, after police say they found a liquor bottle with gasoline, a wick, a lighter and paint-filled balloons in his backpack.

Federal Judge Monte Richardson denied Zecher’s attorney’s request for bail and house arrest.

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office made the arrest, but FBI and ATF are now part of the case.

According to an 11 federal indictments released by the Department of Justice, Jacksonville police officers detained Zecher for not moving out of the road during a demonstration near the courthouse. After handcuffing him, they noticed a liquid leaking from his backpack and, with his consent, they searched his backpack.

Officers said they discovered a Patrón liquor bottle filled with gasoline and stuffed with a wick. They also found balloons filled with paint and a hatchet, which Zecher referred to as a “demolition device.”

Ivan Zecher, 27, appears in front of a federal judge. (Copyright 2020 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

Detectives interviewed him and noted he admitted he knew what it was, but said he was carrying the potential explosive in his bag, after someone named “Ace” in his group asked him to. Zecher said he did not know “Ace’s” real name and had never met him before the protest.

Zecher is a convicted felon, prohibited from carrying a weapon, because of a Clay County incident when he was 21-years-old. He pleaded guilty to the incident in Clay County where he threatened his “combative” sister with a knife, ultimately stabbing a wall. His sister was not hurt.

He was later arrested for violation of probation and driving under the influence.

His defense lawyer, Marcus Barnett, said his past doesn’t make him a terrorist.

“I don’t think he’s a dangerous person,” Barnett told News4Jax. “I think he’s a kid who got caught up in stuff that he’s bigger than he is. I think if he could do it all again, he would not do any of it again.”

However, a federal prosecutor on the case pointed out that Zecher has violated his probation and failed to appear in court on past charges. He said the man is potentially dangerous and at-risk for running away if released.

The prosecutor noted that Zecher was cooperative and had no-known ties to any violent groups or plans to cause harm to others or property.

His fiancé and daughter, as well as future stepdaughter, were in the courtroom, looking on. She posted a message on his Facebook page Tuesday.

“People are making racist comments about my husband being an immigrant from Russia, death threats to me and our children,” she wrote. “This is abhorrent behavior and I am determined to prove my husband’s innocence.”

Zecher was born in Russia but adopted and lived in the United States since he was 1. He is an American citizen, employed as a mason.

Zecher’s fiance’s grandmother said she would house him and watch over him at her Clay County home if he was released on bond.

After listening to the arguments from both sides, Judge Richardson decided to keep Zecher in jail, instead of releasing him on house arrest. He noted what he had could have caused destruction, injuries or death.

“I think if he (Zecher) could do it all again, he would not do any of it again,” Barnett said.

Barnett said the next court hearing, he’ll likely enter a not guilty plea.

If he’s convicted, Zecher faces up to 20 years in federal prison.

About the Author:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.