BORF gets a Month in Jail

Stencil Archive stands in solidarity with BORF and all other artists who end up in bogus judicial systems that support property rights.

From the Washington Post

The teenage graffiti vandal known as Borf got tagged yesterday -- with 30 days in the D.C. jail and a dressing-down that no one in the courtroom will soon forget.

Borf, aka [not gonna give his real name out], chose not to address the judge who was deciding his fate. But D.C. Superior Court Judge Lynn Leibovitz had a lot to say to the young anarchist from Northern Virginia. She didn't paint a pretty picture.

"You profess to despise rich people," she said. "You profess to despise the faceless, nameless forms of government that oppress. That's what you've become. That's what you are. You're a rich kid who comes into Washington and defaces property because you feel like it. It's not fair. It's not right."

Prolific like few local taggers before him, the 18-year-old [name deleted] left the Borf mark at dozens of places all over the District, from daring, eye-catching expositions such as the tagging of a wall above a Cosi on Connecticut Avenue to cruder, less memorable efforts such as the spray-painting of a dumpster on a side street.

The moniker, prosecutors said, was the nickname of a friend who killed himself in October 2003 in Silver Spring, and references in court to a confidential pre-sentence report on [name deleted] suggested that he has been deeply troubled by his friend's death.

Whatever the inspiration, the tag seemed to be everywhere for a time, to the frustration of property owners, police and city workers responsible for cleaning up graffiti. The judge said there was no justification for it.

"That's not artistic expression," she said. "That is not political expression. That is not grief therapy. That is vandalism."

Caught early one morning last summer as he defaced a Howard University building, [name deleted] was charged with destruction of property. The arrest and subsequent media attention seemed to heighten his notoriety. Copycats emerged, eager to fill the breach.

In December, he pleaded guilty to the felony charge. Yesterday, the prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Cynthia Wright, urged the judge to lock him up. It was an unusual request for a first-time offender in a property crime.

But the judge did not need much convincing. What mattered to Leibovitz -- and what [name deleted] seemed not to understand -- was that ordinary people had been affected by the mess he created.

"It's not about whether you want to express yourself," she said. "Washington, D.C., is not a playground that was built for your self-expression. It's a place where people, real people, live and care about their communities."

Nothing that took place in the months before he pleaded guilty in December and nothing that has happened since seems to have awakened him to that fact, she said.

He showed up for one hearing last fall wearing paint-splattered clothing. And while his case was still pending in the District, [name deleted] got in more trouble. He was arrested on the Upper East Side of Manhattan on suspicion of defacing a streetlight box, ruining his chances of probation.

"You should have been walking out of the front door of this courtroom today," Leibovitz told him. "Unfortunately, I have come to the conclusion that you require more than that to impress upon you the seriousness of what you've done. Not because it's a wall, not because it's a building, not because it's a fixture in some abstract sense. But because of people."

Standing next to his attorney, Michael Madden, [name deleted] stood in silence as the judge spoke. His father watched from among a courtroom full of spectators.

The 30-day jail term is just the start. If [name deleted] breaks the law again within the next three years, he could be jailed for the 17 suspended months of his sentence. Regardless, he has to complete 200 hours of community service, including 80 hours of cleaning up graffiti. And he must pay $12,000 in restitution, money that better not come out of his parents' bank accounts, the judge said.

"In other words," she said, "not the bogus jobs that your father gives you in New York . . . a real job, going to work like the people you demean, earning it with paychecks and the sweat of your own brow."

But it was the prospect of a month at the jail that most worried Madden, who had asked for probation and pleaded with the judge to at least send [name deleted] to a halfway house.

She wouldn't budge, and she made it clear why.

"I want him to see what the inside of the D.C. jail looks like," she said, "because unlike every other person you've seen in my courtroom this morning, who have a ninth-grade education, who are drug-addicted, who have had childhoods the likes of which you could not conceive, you come from privilege and opportunity and seem to think that the whole world is just like McLean and just like East 68th Street.

"Well," she said, "it's not."