LOS ANGELES, CA — City Attorney Carmen A. Trutanich announced on Wednesday, June 20 that his Office has resolved its historic “tagger injunction” lawsuit with the MTA, aka Metro Transit Assassins, one of the City’s most prolific and destructive graffiti vandalism or “tagging” crews, and 10 of its members, settling with eight defendants, entering defaults against two more defendants, and dismissing the final defendant, who was deported. Deputy City Attorney Jim McDougal handled the vandalism injunction on behalf of the City.
“Taggers unlawfully vandalize thousands of private and public properties each year, costing the City and its taxpayers millions of dollars in repair and cleanup costs,” said City Attorney Carmen A. Trutanich. “We must use all available legal tools to stop this vandalism, which taggers refer to as “wrecking,” and which blights our neighborhoods and diverts scarce resources from other community uses, such as parks, libraries and fire protection.”
Under the settlements, the City can file entry of judgments granting all that it had requested in its complaint, including a modified gang injunction enforceable throughout the State of California that would 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. Pursuant to the settlements, the City agrees to suspend enforcement of this judgment against the named defendants, provided each defendant refrains from committing another act of graffiti vandalism. The City Attorney’s Office will ultimately dismiss the case against any defendant who is not convicted of any graffiti-related offense within five years of his last graffiti conviction.
The settlement also requires each settling defendant to pay all court-ordered restitution for past graffiti damage, submit to an informational interview with law enforcement to enhance police efforts to investigate and prosecute graffiti vandals, and perform 100 hours of graffiti removal. Each defendant must also state that he is no longer a graffiti vandal. Three of the settling defendants have now completed all terms of the settlement and will be dismissed from the complaint. As previously reported, the City prevailed on all constitutional issues raised by the ACLU in extensive court hearings held in this case, obtaining judicial confirmation that a “tagger injunction” is an appropriate legal tool available to law enforcement for addressing vandalism committed by tagging crews.
Pursuant to the settlements, and by default against the MTA tagging crew as an entity there will be an additional court hearing prior to the entry of final judgment. Most importantly, the MTA judgment will allow the City to serve and prosecute violations of this injunction on any additional or future members of the MTA crew identified by law enforcement. The Complaint, filed by the City Attorney’s Office in June 2010, is modeled after civil gang injunctions, and seeks to enjoin members of the tagging crew from engaging in public nuisance and unlawful business practices.
However, unlike previous civil gang injunctions, this lawsuit seeks to enjoin the tagging crew and its members throughout the The filing included extensive documentation of vandalism by the MTA crew, including on the L A River, highway signs, highway sound walls, billboards, bridges, buses, passenger trains, freight train cars, trucks, homes, and various buildings. Over 500 photographs of vandalism by MTA and the named defendants were collected in preparation for trial. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Transit Service Bureau, Special Problems Unit has been the primary law enforcement partner on this operation. LASD Detective Mike Thibodeaux served as lead investigator. Additionally, the Los Angeles Police Department, California Highway Patrol Investigative Services Unit, LA Regional Gang Intelligence Network, California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation, and “Graffiti Task Force of California” contributed to successful pursuit of this injunction. Tagging crews and taggers are responsible for much of the 31 million square feet of vandalism at 650,000 locations across Los Angeles. The City expends approximately $10 million annually in clean up costs.