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Graffiti artist Smear sentenced for violating probation

Saying he needs to set an example for young vandals, an L.A. judge sentences him to 13 days in jail, which he has already served, and requires him to work 45 days on a graffiti cleanup crew.

March 25, 2011|By Richard Winton, Los Angeles Times

A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge Thursday sentenced a graffiti artist to 13 days in jail and 45 days of graffiti removal for violating his probation, saying that his success as a tagger-turned-artist could help inspire young vandals to take their art into the studios.

Judge Marcelita Haynes sentenced Cristian Gheorghiu, also known as Smear, after he acknowledged that he violated the terms of his probation for vandalism by posting photos of illegal graffiti on his website.

Gheorghiu was arrested on a probation-violation charge March 16, a day after Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies searched his east Hollywood home and The Times published an article recounting his rise from concrete walls to chic galleries. His work has appeared in art galleries from Long Beach to Romania. Gheorghiu's arrest also came as the city attorney sought a one-of-a-kind court injunction to bar him from profiting from his art.

Calling Gheorghiu a "renowned" artist, Haynes said she wanted him to set an example for youngsters vandalizing the streets and show them that they can make a real life from art. She is requiring him to work 45 days on a graffiti cleanup crew alongside young taggers.

"You have lived that life," Haynes said. "You started off as a bad boy."

The judge also sentenced Gheorghiu to 13 days in jail, but because he already has served time behind bars, he was released Thursday.

His attorney, Blair Berk, persuaded the judge to narrow and better define the conditions of Gheorghiu's probation stemming from a 2007 vandalism conviction. She said he would accept restrictions on his website during the remainder of his probation and has removed links to street graffiti.

"He has created as an artist a life that is perfectly lawful," Berk said. "He doesn't want to be the target of law enforcement."

Haynes issued an order clarifying that Gheorghiu's art tools should not be considered a probation violation. He is allowed to possess them at his art studio, art shows and where he teaches. Sheriff's deputies have alleged previously that his art supplies were tools of graffiti.

Gheorghiu is on probation for tagging buses. He was given a 40-month suspended prison sentence, but the judge Thursday agreed to end his probation immediately after he pays off a remaining $23,000 in restitution.

In an earlier interview, Gheorghiu said he stopped vandalizing property after his 2007 conviction. He insisted that his only artwork, pieces of which fetch about $2,000, is created in a studio.

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