New London – Angry property owners addressed a Superior Court judge this morning upon hearing that Robert V. Guess, accused of vandalizing dozens of downtown buildings with graffiti, would serve only five weeks in prison and two years probation.Guess, who has been held on $50,000 bond since his Sept. 29 arrest, pleaded guilty to three counts of second-degree criminal mischief and admitted to violating his probation from an earlier graffiti case. He agreed to remain in prison until Nov. 3, when he will be given a suspended prison sentence and two years of probation. He will be required to pay $100 per month restitution to the property owners while on probation.
The 25-year-old local resident is accused of spray-painting his “GRINS” tag and other figures on buildings throughout the city between August 2008 and March 2009. The property owners who have cleaned the graffiti, or paid for its removal, said five weeks in prison is not enough.
“I think he’s getting off pretty easy compared to what we have to do,” said Charlotte Hennegan, owner of the Thames River Greenery and other properties.
William Cornish, owner of the Union Street parking garage, said for two years he has dedicated a wall to so-called urban artists and has still been “tagged.”
“I’m the sucker here,” Cornish said. “These people are just plain not grateful for anybody reaching out.”
Jim Stidfole, treasurer for the Hygienic Arts Group, said he finds it “ultimately disrespectful” that Guess, who considers himself an artist, would vandalize the Hygienic Building, a downtown symbol of artistic expression.
“This man does not respect art institutions, and he does not respect art,” Stidfole said.
Guess’s parents spoke to Judge Kevin P. McMahon, saying the sentence seems fair and that Guess, who has previously been convicted for graffiti, has “really got his act together.” They said Guess has been charged with more graffiti than he was responsible for.
“He is an artist,” said the father, Robert Guess Sr. “He’s put his art on canvas and has been doing that for the last year and a half.”
The judge said that Guess, who has now been convicted twice, has disrespected the downtown people and their properties as well as the court.
“For someone like him to go to jail for six weeks is a big deal,” McMahon said. “Ife he does it again, he’s going to be treated like a hardened criminal.”
Also today, the judge granted accelerated rehabilitation and probation to Jose Delacruz, another accused graffiti artist. Delacruz and his codefendant, Michael Cortez, each will be paying their share of the $3,740 in damages. The judge said that Delacruz, who is associated with a downtown gallery, is “not to be caught tagging in any way shape or form” over the next two years and is to perform 14 hours of community service.