The creator of the Barack Obama "HOPE" poster pleaded guilty Friday to criminal contempt, saying he made a "terrible decision" in 2009 to destroy some documents and fabricate others in a civil lawsuit pertaining to the Associated Press photograph he relied upon to make the poster.
Shepard Fairey entered the plea in federal court to the misdemeanor charge, which carries a maximum potential penalty of up to six months in prison. Sentencing was set for July 16. "Violating the court's trust was the worst thing I have ever done in my life," said Fairey, 42, of Los Angeles. "I was ashamed as I did all these things, and I remain ashamed."
The criminal case originated after the artist acknowledged he had fabricated information in a lawsuit he brought against the AP in February 2009. The lawsuit sought a court declaration that he did not violate AP's copyrights when he made the Obama image. The AP countersued, saying the uncredited, uncompensated use of its picture both violated copyright laws and was a threat to journalism.
That case was settled last year.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel W. Levy told the judge that the government plans to ask for "some term of imprisonment" at sentencing.
Maas rejected the government's request that bail be set at $100,000 for Fairey, saying he could be released on his own recognizance because the risk that he would flee was "extraordinarily low."
The AP and Fairey announced last year that they had settled their copyright infringement claims against each other and would work together in projects using the news agency's pictures.
AP President and CEO Tom Curley said: "Mr. Fairey started this case by suing the AP over copyright fair use issues. The AP never expected the case to take the turn that it did. The AP hopes that some good may come of this, by alerting judges and parties to the possibility that fake evidence may exist."