Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Graffiti artist gets year in jail

19-year-old later will have to clean walls he marked

Seth M. King spread his SEED tag over countless buildings in Clintonville, Northland and the University District. And now he'll spend a year in jail.

"Graffiti is not an art, it's vandalism," Franklin County Environmental Judge Harland H. Hale told King, who also was sentenced to spend 200 hours on community service and five years on probation once he is released from jail.

King, 19, of Pontiac Street in North Linden, pleaded guilty Jan. 4 to three counts of graffiti, a first-degree misdemeanor, after he was charged with 13 counts of graffiti and three other misdemeanors. Hale sentenced him yesterday to a maximum 540 days in jail but suspended 180 days. The judge said he is willing to consider early release.

Hale said he usually sentences first-time adult graffiti offenders to 10 days in jail. Once he is released, King will spend a lot of time scrubbing his tags off walls. Neighborhood leaders said the tags have blighted their communities and cost businesses tens of thousands of dollars to remove.

"It's not cool, it's not fun and it's not free," Ian MacConnell, who leads the University Area Commission, said after the sentencing.

MacConnell worked with other neighborhood leaders to document King's work and pursue a stiff sentence.

"Hopefully, this sentence will curb the tagging," said David Southan, a Clintonville Area Commission member.

King's attorney, public defender Dawn Steele, said Hale shouldn't make an example of King. She said King didn't realize the impact his tags had on property owners, and that a long stint in jail would reinforce his feeling of worthlessness.

Steele also said King has long struggled to fit in, calling him "a nerdy kid who wasn't a popular person," someone who attended six different schools, was once in foster care and has been in counseling. Steele said King wants to earn a GED diploma. Hale told King he doesn't understand what drove him to damage so many properties.

He said it cost Skully's Music-Diner on N. High Street $8,375 to repair the mirror on which King etched his tag in November. The Graham School, 3950 Indianola Ave., spent $2,595 to remove the tags.

The Clintonville Community Market, Beechwold Diner and other businesses also were marked. King apologized and said he wants to better his life.

"I'm an adult now," King said. "I was immature."

King had a lengthy juvenile record for graffiti, said Assistant City Attorney Pete Scranton. Hale also ordered King to pay restitution, but he said he knows King can't afford to repay property owners.
After the sentencing, King's mother, Lisa King, showed Hale one of her son's paintings. The image, in red and black, features outlines of Downtown buildings.

"He is not just SEED," she said. "Seth is a talented artist."

After the hearing, Mrs. King said the tags were her son's way of saying, "Hey, look at me."

Taken from: Dispatch

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