Graffiti artist Shepard Fairey appears in court on tagging charges

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Artist Shepard Fairey

A world renown graffiti artist turned himself in to Detroit police  less than two months after unveiling a giant downtown mural commissioned by Dan Gilbert.

When he wasn't working on the massive masterpiece, the city says Shepard Fairey was tagging buildings all over town.

Fairey, 45, could be seen leaving the Detroit Detention Center with his attorney - once again a free man Tuesday afternoon.

The famous - or infamous - artist turned himself in Tuesday morning - charged with two counts of malicious destruction of property for leaving his mark illegally a couple months ago.

"Right now we're at about 18 buildings that he's tagged," said Megan Moslimani, city of Detroit attorney. "We have charged on about eight. It is an ongoing investigation with complaining witnesses."

At the time he was working on his piece for Gilbert,  Fairey told Detroit media: "We were striving for something that I feel is beautiful, that something people would be inspired by."

The LA-based artist was commissioned by business titan and well-known graffiti foe, Dan Gilbert, to paint an18-story mural downtown.

But  police say Fairey also tagged other buildings with his signature Andre the Giant logo without permission and several of those property owners wanted to prosecute.

Damages were estimated at $9,000 to $30,000.

"We treat everyone the same," Police Chief James Craig said. "And let the facts show what they show. We are going to move forward with the investigation."

A warrant was issued for Fairey's arrest and Tuesday he came to town to be arraigned on the charges. But city officials say this isn't just about Shepard Fairey - it's about cleaning up the city.

"Our inspectors have been on east McNichols, we've been cleaning on Gratiot," said Alexis Wiley, chief of staff for Detroit . "We clean all the way up to Eight Mile, we've been along I-96, we've been all over the city."

"It's our initiative and our main goal to eliminate blight," said Moslimani. "Which in turn helps the safety and the health of our citizens and the community."

City officials say in the last year the graffiti task force has arrested 30 people - only nine of them from Detroit. Most have been from out of town, including 28-year-old Shawna Bektashi - caught red-handed tagging in 
southwest Detroit.

Bektashi is from White Lake and had come to the city to celebrate her birthday spray-painting.

She was sentenced on Monday to six months in jail.

"We are going after people who are vandalizing buildings," Wiley said. "For us, graffiti is a huge priority."

Fairey's next court dates are July 21 and 28. He could spend five years in jail or face a $10,000 fine.

His bond was set at $75,000 - 10 percent.