LOS ANGELES (AP) — Authorities have arrested a Los Angeles graffiti artist on an alleged probation violation.
Cristian Gheorghiu, also known as Smear, was taken into custody Wednesday a day after sheriff’s deputies searched his East Hollywood home and The Los Angeles Times published an article chronicling the tagger’s rise in the art world, the newspaper reported.
Sheriff’s Lt. Vince Carter would not provide specifics on the arrest, saying the booking was related to new information and vandalism tools. Gheorghiu is on felony probation for a 2007 vandalism conviction. Authorities searched his home Tuesday as part of a probation check.
His attorney, Peter Bibring, said deputies told him they planned to show that Gheorghiu’s possession of graffiti tools was a violation of his probation. Authorities seized markers, stickers, art prints and a copy of the newspaper profile, he said.
“It raises extreme First Amendment issues,” said Bibring, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. “The government shouldn’t be in a position of saying you can’t make art from certain materials.”
Gheorghiu also is being sued by the city attorney’s office which is seeking an injunction to keep him from profiting from his art work, which now fetches as much as $2,500 a piece. The suit seeks at least $1 million in penalties and a court order barring him and others in his old tagging crew from making money off artwork under their street names.
Gheorghiu has an arrest record dating back to 1999. He was ordered to pay $28,000 in restitution after a 2007 felony conviction.
He remains on probation after paying only $5,000 of his fines and told the newspaper he stopped vandalizing property after that conviction. His only artwork, he said, is created in a studio.
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