Shepard Fairey Trial for Detroit Tagging Set For January 2016

October 13, 2015

The untangling of Shepard Fairey vs. the City of Detroit saga is to happen in January of next year. Facing three felonies for the destruction of the Detroit property, Shepard Fairey will stand trial on January 26th, 2016 in Wayne County Circuit Court. The charges include damage to several buildings and a railroad bridge, and the estimated damage is over $30,000. If sentenced, one of America's most prolific street artists could spend five years in prison and pay a fine three times the estimated damage. What will come out of this case is to be seen in January.

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Attorney Bradley J. Friedman, left, and his client. Photo via Detroit News

Shepard Fairey Vandalizing Detroit

Let’s do a little recap of those events that lead to the charges and the forthcoming trial. As you probably know, this year in May, Shepard Fairey was in Detroit where he created his largest mural to date, commissioned by Dan Gilbert’s Bedrock Real Estate Services. However, this isn’t the only public artwork Fairey left on the walls of Detroit. During his stay, the signature Obey Giant and Misfit posters popped out across the city and this illegal tagging is what brought the artist a warrant and a lawsuit.

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Black-and-white Andre the Giant face on a water tower in downtown Detroit. Image via

Fairey vs. Detroit: The September Hearing

During the second preliminary hearing on September 1st before 36th District Court Judge Kenneth King, the creator of the Hope poster was ordered to face trial. The accusations of vandalism were supported by the testimony of Rebecca McKay, Detroit Police sergeant who was able to locate 14 posters supposedly created by Fairey based on the 20-minute long YouTube video where the artist explains the wheat paste technique and introduction to tagging. This lead the judge Kenneth King to conclude that Fairey was either arrogant or playing stupid, indicating that tagging without permission is illegal but still illustrating how it’s done to the army of his fans. The judge didn’t find Fairey’s video cute or funny and the trial is set for the following year.

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Shepard Fairey

Creator of the HOPE Poster to Face Trial in January

During the second preliminary hearing Fairey’s attorney stated that the artist would never put his art on the walls with the intent of damaging it but rather beautifying the buildings with his creations. Once again we are asked to question where is the line between art and vandalism in the world of street art. For the judge and the Detroit officials the answer is clear and Shepard Fairey will have to face trial on January 26th next year at 9 am. Accused of creating unauthorized artworks on nine buildings, three of them owned by the city, Shepard Fairey will face three felonies, two counts of felonious malicious destruction of property causing damage between $1,000 and $20,000, and one count of malicious destruction of property in excess of $20,000. The case will be resolved in 2016 and all we can do is to wish Fairey the best of luck in the upcoming trial.

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Portrait of the artist. Photo via

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