Graffiti Crew MTA's Gang Injunction Is For Real
Update: See L.A. Weekly's previous coverage of the MTA grafitti artists who enraged LA County officials. More details on next page.
jondoeforty1 / Flickr
The L.A. City Attorney's office has officially pioneered using a gang injunction against graffiti artists it says are tagging up public property.
This legal tool allows prosecutors to bust gangsters just for being gangsters, essentially. Now taggers who crew-up can also be collared just for hanging out together.
This week the office announced that a permanent injunction against a crew called MTA:
The move against Metro Transit Assassins was approved by a Los Angeles Superior Court judge yesterday.
The ruling means that targeted MTA members can't be caught in public together. At least theoretically. (More on that below).
According to a City Attorney's statement, the judgement will ...
... prohibit the defendants from associating with other members of MTA in public, prohibit them from possessing graffiti tools, and require that the defendants obey an adult curfew. In addition, the members would be liable for substantial money damages and civil penalties.
However, enforcement of the injunction against eight vandals who settled with the city over their public work will be suspended as long as they stay clean, according to the office.
The MTA is behind what was claimed to be the largest tag ever (pictured) -- its logo painted on a concrete bank of the L.A. River.
Authorities alleged the crew caused $.3.7 million worth of damage but settled for thousands of dollars in restitution, 100 hours of community service and graffiti removal, and a vow from the defendants not to tag again.
Three of the eight MTA members have already done all of the above and are free and clear of charges if they stay away from the spray cans for five years, according to prosecutors.
In essence, the injunction is a non-issue since the City Attorney's office won't use it for now, but it's a line in the sand for other tagging crews that authorities can now use statewide.
Here's what Simone Wilson reported on this issue several weeks ago for LA Weekly:
Perhaps the most brazen cop taunt in the history of L.A. graffiti was staged by the crew MTA, or Metro Transit Assassins, in 2008.
Unidentified Metro Transit Assassin members used hundreds of gallons of paint to tag the huge, slanted side of a concrete Los Angeles River bank near the Fourth Street Bridge and 101 freeway with "MTA." That name, of course, belonged to the wealthy transit authority they were mocking, an agency that has steadily cut the region's heavily used bus service for poor minorities while pouring billions into far less utilized rail lines for white-collar commuters. The giant, 3-D block letters, thought to form America's largest tag, were 30 feet tall and a half-mile wide.
No plane, train nor freeway commuter within eyeshot could avoid bearing witness.
The Metro Transit Assassins, even those who did not participate, were punished accordingly.
Because Baca's underlings couldn't prove who did it, they rounded up 11 taggers linked to MTA -- including rising graffiti artist Smear, who had begun selling his works in galleries -- and, supported by L.A. City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, built a backbreaking civil lawsuit against them.
Dangling a $3.7 million cleanup cost before them, Trutanich offered the defendants a deal: If they paid off their previous graffiti damage in L.A., did community service and promised to be good, Trutanich would forgive the alleged $3.7 million in damages.
But the young people were in fact agreeing to far more: a watershed settlement that, according to the city attorney's office, creates the world's first "tagger injunction." It can be used much like a gang injunction and opens the door for more such "tagger injunctions" against other graffiti crews.