Judge accuses Shepard Fairey of ‘arrogance or pure stupidity,’ sends case to trial

An iconic Shepard Fairey image of Andre the Giant in the Cass Corridor. Photo by Steve Neavling.
An iconic Shepard Fairey image of Andre the Giant in the Cass Corridor. Photo by Steve Neavling.

Although no one witnessed street artist Shepard Fairey posting his iconic images on abandoned buildings in Detroit, a judge ruled Tuesday afternoon that there’s enough evidence to warrant a trial on felony malicious destruction of property charges.

District Court Judge Kenneth King said he was dumbfounded by the “arrogance or pure stupidity” of the 45-year-old street artist and bound the case over for a circuit court trial.

“The defendant has pretty much given us a lesson on how to tag a property, a property that he readily admits he had no permission to tag,” the judge said without acknowledging the lack of direct evidence.

Fairey faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

Photos: 15 images of Shepard Fairey’s work in Detroit

The case has baffled many observers who question why the city would place a team of investigators on the Fairey case while police are unable to respond promptly to violent crime. The case stems from an aggressive crusade by Mayor Mike Duggan to crack down on street art and graffiti.

During the preliminary hearing Tuesday, police admitted they had no direct evidence that Fairey posted any of the images.

Police said Fairey’s images cost at least $30,000 to remove from nine buildings.

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.