Artist Shepard Fairey goes to trial for Detroit graffiti

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A world famous artist hired to paint a giant mural in Detroit is headed to trial for illegally tagging buildings.

Prosecutors say that Shepard Fairey is to blame for thousands of dollars in damage.

FOX 2: "What do you think of Detroit?"

"I love Detroit," Fairey said. "I think Detroit is great, I've had a great experience with the people of Detroit."

Maybe the people, but not the law.

"When Shepard Fairey was interviewed in another context, he said these charges were 'hilarious,'" said Doug Baker, Wayne County assistant prosecutor. 

Fairey is the artist that created the Hope campaign poster for President Barack Obama. He was hired by Dan Gilbert, the founder and chairman of Quicken Loans, to paint an 18-story mural on his Compuware building.

But in May, Fairey was accused of illegally defacing or gluing posters on seven buildings in Detroit, totaling $30,000 worth of damages and he now faces up to 10 years in prison.

"You didn't give consent to Craig Shepard Fairey to tag those properties that he mentioned on cross-examination," Baker asked an employee of Bedrock Reality.

"I was not involved in any consent for artwork on any of those other addresses that were mentioned," he said.

And prosecutors say  this is not the first time Fairey has tagged buildings.

"Mr. Fairey has been arrested over 17 times for this charge," said Megan Moslimani, assistant prosecutor. "He has tagged numerous buildings in the city of Detroit."

And police believe that tagging is not art. 

"When a piece of artwork is commissioned," said Sgt. Rebecca McKay of Detroit police. "Or when the individual has permission from the owner of a building to put a piece of artwork up, I would consider that art."

FOX 2: "When you look around Detroit there is a lot of graffiti, why this guy?"

"If you look around Detroit carefully, there's less graffiti," Baker said. "And that's where we're going with this."

And today, a judge agreed that there is enough evidence to have a trial.

"We believe that once all the evidence is laid out, my client will be vindicated," said attorney Bradley Friedman, who represents Fairey.

Shepard Fairey will be back in court, September 15th.