Shepard Fairey's brush with the criminal justice system regarding his 2008 Barack Obama campaign poster is over, with the artist avoiding jail time because he's such a nice guy. After a sentencing hearing Friday, Fairey walked with two years' probation, 300 hours of community service, and a $25,000 fine, federal prosecutors announced on Friday.
Federal prosecutors had argued that for Fairey to get off with no jail time for doctoring evidence in a lawsuit he filed against the Associated Press "would send a 'terrible message' to others who might engage in similar conduct," the A.P. reported on Friday. But the judge in the case "cited Fairey's charity work" in letting him off without any jail time, the agency reported. Fairey frequently auctions off his paintings to support organizations such as the Red Cross and Hollywood Arts. Before the hearing, his defense team painted a picture of a loving father of two and generous businessman and employer who made one very bad mistake. Fairey echoed that notion in his statement after the verdict, per The New York Times:
My wrong-headed actions, born out of a moment of fear and embarrassment, have not only been financially and psychologically costly to myself and my family, but also helped to obscure what I was fighting for in the first place— the ability of artists everywhere to be inspired and freely create art without reprisal.
Fairey had sued the AP in 2009 after the agency accused him of using one of its copyrighted photographs in his iconic Barack Obama 'Hope' campaign poster. Prosecutors accused him of creating false documents to prove he used a different photo, and destroying evidence that he had used the copyrighted image. Fairey eventually settled his suit with the A.P., agreeing to pay $1.6 million, and in February he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor criminal contempt charge for the coverup, which could have gotten him six months in jail. Good thing he's such a nice guy.
Update (3:04 p.m. EDT): The AP sent over a statement from president and CEO Gary Pruitt, which is also available online:
After spending a great amount of time, energy and legal effort, all of us at The Associated Press are glad this matter is finally behind us. We hope this case will serve as a clear reminder to all of the importance of fair compensation for those who gather and produce original news content.
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