Shepard Fairey Pleads Guilty to Contempt Charge in Manhattan District Court

by Hrag Vartanian on February 24, 2012

The ordeal over Shepard Fairey’s Obama Hope image has turned a new corner when today the LA-based artist pled guilty to one count of criminal contempt for destroying documents, manufacturing evidence and other misconduct in civil litigation against the Associated Press regarding his world-renowned “Hope” poster.

The press release from the US Attorney’s Office quotes Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara saying:

“As he admitted today, Shepard Fairey, an artist associated with an iconic image from the 2008 presidential campaign, went to extreme lengths to obtain an unfair and illegal advantage in his civil litigation, creating fake documents and destroying others in an effort to subvert the civil discovery process. 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.”

The case is based on a series of event in 2009, when Fairey initiated litigation against the AP in an attempt to prove his use of an AP photograph was protected by fair use. Fairey alleged that he had used a 2006 AP photograph of Obama and actor George Clooney. It turns out Fairey was lying as he had used another AP image from the same event. In order to justify his claim, the artist created multiple false and fraudulent documents and attempted to delete multiple electronic files, which were later discovered.

With the latest guilty plea, Fairey faces a maximum term of six months in prison and a maximum term of supervised release of one year. He also faces a fine of the greatest of $5,000, or twice the gross pecuniary gain derived from the offense or twice the gross pecuniary loss to the victims. He will be sentenced on July 16.

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  • Micah Ganske

    Live Trace abusers the world over, let this be a lesson to you.  

    • Michael Smith

      You’re a jackass. Nothing about that piece is live traced.

      • Please don’t resort to name calling. We can all disagree and make mistakes.

        • Micah Ganske

          We can all disagree but I don’t know about the mistakes part.  ;-)

      • Micah Ganske

        You’re right, there is absolutely nothing that looks live traced about the poster image at all. I should point out that I made this in about 5 minutes.  Sure, Fairey made edits to the trace but who cares?  He steals the work of photographers for a living and basically runs them through a filter.   

        • Micah Ganske

          Image didn’t attach before!

        •  Micah, the AP has seen your 5 minute render.   Get ready for 6 months of hard time in the clink.

          • Den Hickey

             Micah isn’t trying to make money off of it or claim it as her own.. unlike Fairey.

        • Photographers steal people’s likeness for a living. They should pay the people whose reputations and newsworthiness they leech off of and in many cases help to destroy. Sure they run the image through Photoshop but who cares? Anyone can do that.

  • Alcyone308

    The immutable laws of cause and effect…

  • aaron cowan


  • MartinNYID

    god forbid the media monsters don;t have a license for absolutely everything.

  • Obama says he doesn’t even know who Shepard is.

  • Den Hickey

    He deserves the jail time.

  • skullfront

    why Fairey.  no need to lie when you know his technique.  here’s one
    Tron Paul

  • if they want to get you, they’ll get you. 

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