Artists are known for pushing boundaries in the pursuit of their art. In two separate instances, artists are facing criminal liability as a result of their art.
Last week Joseph Gibbons pled guilty to burglary in the third degree for robbing Capital One in New York on December 31 of last year. He handed the teller a note asking for a donation of $1000 for his church. This was not the first time he did this. In November he used a similar note at a bank in Rhode Island and left with $3000. In both instances he videotaped the entire thing. He is now serving a one year prison sentence.
And last Friday, the Detroit police issued an arrest warrant for graffiti artist Shepard Fairey on two counts of malicious destruction of property. They allege that he tagged several properties, and that the damage is estimated at $9000. Fairely could potentially receive a five year jail sentence (this is the maximum) if convicted.
Gibbons’ cell mate did an interview with the New York Post and his quoted as saying that Gibbons’ work is artistic and therefore not a crime. However, this is not a situation of either/or. In fact, for both of these artists, their endeavors were both artistic and criminal. The artistic nature of what they were doing will not protect them from any criminal liability that stems from their work. The only place where the artistic nature of the crime might be mitigated is in the sentencing. This would explain the one year sentence for Gibbons’ as punishment for robbing a bank because such a crime usually comes with a longer sentence.
A crime is still a crime, regardless of the intent. If an artist wants to push boundaries to the point he commits a crime, he must be prepared to face the legal consequences of that crime.