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Deleting Discoverable Docs Lands Obama Poster Artist in Criminal Court

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. | Last updated on

Shepard Fairey, the artist responsible for the red, white and blue Obama "Hope" poster, is not a very good client. In fact, he's the kind of client that can get you in trouble and ruin your reputation.

The Obama poster artist is facing up to six months in jail after pleading guilty to misdemeanor criminal contempt last week. Not only did he delete key evidence from his computer, he acknowledged that he fabricated evidence and lied to the court and his attorneys for months on end.

Fairey had preemptively sued the Associated Press seeking to have his poster declared an original work under copyright law. He had claimed the famous image was based on a photograph of the now-President and George Clooney, but soon realized that he had used an AP photo from the same event.

To keep the suit alive, he deleted those files and fabricated documents to hide the mistake. He then gave the documents to his attorneys, providing a detailed description of his artistic process. They only found out the truth when an employee located the deleted items on Fairey's computer.

Fairey showed remorse last weak, taking responsibility for his "terrible decision," reports the Associated Press. But it doesn't seem he really understands just what his behavior could have done to his lawyers.

Imagine the kind of conversations they must have had when deciding how to meet their ethical obligations. Yes, the Obama poster artist eventually gave them permission to issue a public confession, but their duties didn't end there. The attorneys had to update court filings and then ask to withdraw from the case.

Not only is this embarrassing, it could have easily caught the attention of state ethics authorities. No one wants to be accused of ignoring a client's lies.

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