Artist Tobias Madison (used with photographer’s permission)

In a court hearing in New York today, January 22, artist Tobias Madison, who faced serious charges of domestic violence, pleaded guilty to assaulting and harassing his former girlfriend.

The case against Madison, a Basel, Switzerland-born artist based in New York and Zurich, surfaced last October while he was taking part in the group exhibition Life and Limbs at the Swiss Institute in New York. More than 50 artists, writers, and curators penned a “Letter of Concern” to the Swiss Institute and the exhibition’s curator, Anna-Sophie Berger, asking them to address the charges against Madison. Signatories on the letter included writers Francisco Goldman and Veronica Gonzalez Peña, curators Ivana Dizdar and Alice Centamore, and artists Seung-Min Lee, and Max Maslansky, among others.

Madison was arrested in March of 2019 for an incident that occurred on December 2, 2018. He faced five charges including assault with the intent to cause injury, criminal obstruction of breath and applying pressure, attempted assault, and harassment.

Today, he entered a “re-pleader agreement” in which he pleaded guilty to assault in the third degree (the top charge in the case) and harassment in the second degree, in return for joining a rehabilitation program that would involve no prison time.

In a court document provided to Hyperallergic, the New York Assistant District Attorney (ADA) states that the deal was reached over just two of the five original charges not because of lack of evidence, but due to a decision to give Madison a chance to rehabilitate and take responsibility for his actions.

“The People believe that each of the charged crimes in this case, and their underlying facts as articulated in the criminal complaint, can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt,” the ADA’s statement reads. “This is based, among other things, on the defendant’s own statements, texts, and emails, and statements from the victim, earwitnesses, and witnesses who spoke to the victim and/or the defendant. However, we are offering a conditional re-pleader to the defendant, to give the defendant an opportunity to take responsibility for his conduct and work to avoid re-offending.”

In a recorded phone conversation obtained by Hyperallergic, Madison admits to battering his former partner four times, choking her twice, and slamming her head against a brick wall. The accuser says she has since been diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome.

As part of the agreement reached today, Madison agreed to attend a 26-week in-person batterers program in Basel. He will attend weekly sessions with therapists, and updates on his compliance and progress will be sent to the DA’s office every two months. During this time, he must abide by a full and final order of protection. If he satisfies all of these conditions, his plea to assault in the third degree will be dismissed and he can replead to harassment in the second degree with time served and a full and final order of protection.

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Hakim Bishara

Hakim Bishara is a Senior Editor at Hyperallergic. He is also a co-director at Soloway Gallery, an artist-run space in Brooklyn. Bishara is a recipient of the 2019 Andy Warhol Foundation and Creative Capital...