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11/18/10 5:19pm

Julie Torres

After a lot of waiting, and multiple court dates, the case against Julie Torres stemming from an arrest in Williamsburg in June has been dismissed. She wrote us one last update, about how it feels to be free.

Today is a wonderful day. After 4 months of court appearances, my bogus graffiti case has been “Dismissed in the Interest of Justice.” This is thrilling for obvious reasons, but most striking to me is that many people advised me to accept a minor charge. Plenty of experienced and well-meaning professionals informed me that the best outcome I could hope for was an ACD (Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal), which comes with a few days of community service and stays on one’s record for 6 months. I was advised to accept the charge despite the fact that, as all agreed, I had done nothing wrong.

According to my court-appointed attorney, the reason my case was dismissed without the ACD was due to the impact of Hrag Vartanian’s Hyperallergic article detailing my case, which got picked up by Gothamist, Gawker, and made its way around the internet via tweets and Facebook shares. Without Hrag’s story, my story would have turned out differently.

That is crazy to me. And scary. And also a little bit awesome. And while I don’t have anything insightful or wise to say about any of this, I can’t help but share the news with everyone I know. And celebrate.

You can celebrate with Julie at the opening of the exhibition PIN UPS: Pop-Up Show at Fleetwing Gallery in Williamsburg, which she co-curated, on Sunday from 5-8pm.

10/14/10 11:49am

Julie Torres

Yesterday, on the day her story appeared in The L Magazine, Julie Torres had a second court date in her ongoing case following a July 17 arrest for painting on paper temporarily taped to a wall. Things are looking up.

Yesterday’s court date went more smoothly than my previous appearances, which I attribute to the tremendous amount of support I’ve received in the past few weeks. Having met with Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, and members of the group K.A.R.A.T.E. (who advise artists on art-related crimes), I felt confident and less overwhelmed by my criminal case. Both organizations generously offered their knowledge and assistance, and I cannot overstate how much that helped to focus me.

My best weapon in the courtroom was Hrag Vartanian’s Hyperallergic article, which single-handedly changed the DA’s offer. I was offered a Violation charge (down from Graffiti and Disorderly Conduct), which I declined. In response, I produced printouts of the Hyperallergic article (also picked up by Gothamist and Gawker) and within minutes was presented with the vastly improved offer of an ACD (Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal). I declined that offer as well, and my case has been adjourned for further documentation.

I return to court on Thursday, November 18, and I’ll keep going back until the case is dismissed, or goes to trial. I no longer feel that I have anything to lose in fighting this case to the end. This was especially true upon learning that there have been 2 civil lawsuits brought against the arresting officer in my case, for similar wrongful arrests.

I must thank everyone who has reached out to me over the past month via email, Facebook and my website. Your encouragement has been a great source of strength to me, and I am deeply moved by your continued kindness.

10/13/10 4:30am

On Saturday, July 17, at about 2pm, an unmarked car pulled up beside me on North 11th Street in Williamsburg, and three men in baseball caps leaped out. They surrounded me and asked for my name, identification and address. I hesitated, but stated my name and fumbled for my ID. I didn’t immediately give them my home address. They became increasingly hostile, demanding that I provide it. I live around the corner from that spot, and I was uneasy. I asked if they were police officers. They laughed, “Yeah, honey, we’re cops.” I was alone on the street. I requested proof, but had no way of discerning an authentic badge from a fake one. My mind flooded with scenarios. I asked to speak with a uniformed officer. That only made things worse.

For the past two years I’ve been painting and selling artwork on Bedford Avenue. Selling one’s art on the street is legal, and a great way to paint outdoors on nice days. I set out last year with a folding table and some small paintings, but since then my work has grown. I was looking for a way to continue painting and selling art outside with larger pieces.

North 11th Street and Bedford Avenue is an ideal location, with lots of foot traffic, great light, and a huge construction site fence that has seen better days. I figured I couldn’t possibly do any harm there, so I taped a few completed watercolor paintings to the fence, along with some blank paper. I painted and sold work at that corner for months without incident. Uniformed police officers made conversation in passing, never indicating that I was doing anything illegal. Only when that unmarked car pulled up in July did I find out that I could be arrested for temporarily taping a watercolor painting to a construction site wall.

My request to speak to a uniformed officer brought two squad cars screeching to a halt beside me, sirens blaring. I still didn’t understand what was happening. I thought the uniformed officers would talk to me, but they followed the plainclothes cops’ orders, handcuffed me and threw me into the back of a police car. I asked what my charges were. The answer was incomprehensible. Baffled, I thought, “This can’t be happening!” I was being arrested for graffiti.

I was photographed, fingerprinted and processed at Central Bookings in downtown Brooklyn, and led into a tiny holding cell full of mice, roaches, one toilet, and 20 other women crouched on the floor. I was held for 23 hours until, finally, my name was called and I saw a judge. My case was adjourned pending further documentation from the officers, and I was released onto the streets of Brooklyn. My art materials, over 40 tubes of paint worth hundreds of dollars, are still being held as evidence.

I’ve been back to court once since then, and I have another court date on October 13. From the original three counts of graffiti, I’ve been offered a lesser charge of Disorderly Conduct, which I didn’t accept. My hope is that this case will eventually be dismissed, but I’m told that could take over a year, with several more court dates in between. I’ve met with friends, lawyers, artists and activists, trying to figure out my next move. For now all I can do is wait for my next court date. And hope.

In the meantime, I’m back on Bedford Avenue and North 8th Street most weekends with my folding table and small paintings. Stop by and chat if you’re in the neighborhood.


You can find Julie’s work online at julietorres.weebly.com, and check back here for an update on her case.