Judge dismisses flimsy case against street artist Shepard Fairey

A Fairey mural mocking consumerism and power was posted on a vacant building on Gratiot. Photos by Steve Neavling.
A Fairey mural mocking consumerism and power was posted on a vacant, graffiti-riddled building on Gratiot. Photo by Steve Neavling.

A Wayne County judge has dismissed charges against world-renowned street artist Shepard Fairey, who was facing up to 10 years in prison.

Fairey was charged in June 2015 with numerous felony charges of malicious destruction of property for allegedly posting his iconic work around Detroit while he was in the city to paint murals for billionaire Dan Gilbert.

But the case was weak: No one witnessed Fairey posting the images.

Wayne County Circuit Judge Cynthia Hathaway dismissed the charges on June 21 at the request of Fairey’ attorney, her office confirmed Wednesday.

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The decision comes about 10 months after District Court Judge Kenneth King said there was enough evidence to warrant a trial, adding he was dumbfounded by the “arrogance or pure stupidity” of the street artist.

Fairey’s arrest was controversial because the understaffed Police Department had “a team” of investigators handling the case at a time when violent crime is relentless.

Fairey has been arrested at least 17 times for posting his work on private and public buildings without permission.

We couldn’t reach Fairey or prosecutors for comment.

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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.