Obama "Hope" artist pleads guilty, facing jail time
Artist Shepard Fairey, who created the iconic "Hope" campaign poster featuring then-Sen. Barack Obama for the 2008 presidential campaign, pleaded guilty in Manhattan Federal Court on Friday to one count of criminal contempt for destroying documents, manufacturing evidence and other misconduct.
The guilty plea stems from Fairey's civil litigation against the Associated Press over copyright issues revolving around the poster. Fairey claimed that his use of an AP photograph as the basis for the poster fell under the "fair use" doctrine.
In his complaint against AP, Fairey claimed he had used an AP image of Obama and actor George Clooney from an April 2006 National Press Club event as the basis for his work. In actuality, he used a different, tightly cropped image — which was also an AP photo —- as the basis for the poster.
In an effort to conceal this falsehood, Fairey created numerous fraudulent documents, and tried to delete multiple electronic documents that would have proven his claim false, according to U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.
Fairey also ignored a judge's deadlines for producing discovery documents for the trial, Bharara said, and suggested to an employee that a back-ordered document-retention policy be created in order to explain why documents had been deleted.
Bharara said Fairey further coached a witness in his case against the AP to give a false account of the facts.
Fairey and the AP settled the copyright case in January 2011, with Fairey agreeing not to use unlicensed AP photos in his future work.
Fairey, 42, faces six months in prison and one year of supervised release, plus a $5,000 fine. He will be sentenced on July 16.