Shepard Fairey Pleads Guilty to Criminal Contempt in Obama 'HOPE' Poster Case [UPDATED]
Shepard Fairey, Echo Park's most (in)famous street artist, pleaded guilty today to criminal contempt in the fair use case he filed against the Associated Press back in 2009. Fairey sued the news agency (and it in turn countersued him) after it accused him of violating copyright protections when he used an AP photo in his iconic Barack Obama "HOPE" poster.Although the fair use case eventually settled out of court, Fairey pleaded guilty to criminal contempt. He admitted to deleting some evidence in the case against AP, fabricating other evidence and even arranging for a witness to support his false claims. The AP claimed that he had based his poster on a solo photograph of Obama, while Fairey initially claimed that he used a different photo where Obama was seated next to George Clooney. Fairey eventually admitted that the AP was right, and that he had gone to great lengths to cover up the truth.
Criminal contempt is a misdemeanor charge that carries a maximum penalty of up to six months in prison. His sentencing is set for July 16, the Associated Press reports.
"Violating the court's trust was the worst thing I have ever done in my life," Fairey said in court. "I was ashamed as I did all these things, and I remain ashamed."
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement, "The justice system - civil and criminal - depends on the integrity of lawyers and non-lawyers alike to follow the rules. Those who break the rules risk sanctions, including, in certain cases, criminal prosecution."
UPDATE: The president and CEO of the Associated Press Tom Curley sent out a press release responding to the news: "Mr. Fairey started this case by suing the AP over copyright fair use issues. The AP never expected the case to take the turn that it did. The AP hopes that some good may come of this, by alerting judges and parties to the possibility that fake evidence may exist."