Irate judge won’t get to tag graffiti vandal with eight years

By Daniel Tencer
Friday, December 18, 2009 14:42 EDT
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A Texas teenager who was sentenced to eight years in prison for graffiti and marijuana possession has had his sentence reduced under new state legal guidelines.

Corpus Christi Judge Marisela Saldana sentenced 18-year-old Sebastian Perez to eight years in prison last week for three counts of graffiti and one count of marijuana possession, giving Perez the maximum two-year sentence for each charge. Both crimes are felonies under Texas law.

But a new law that took effect in the state this fall means judges can no longer “stack” consecutive sentences in cases like Perez’s, and on Friday Perez had his sentence reduced to two years, according to KIII-TV in Corpus Christi.

Perez broke down in sobs last week when a visibly irate Judge Saldana scolded him for his six-month graffiti spree and handed down the eight-year sentence.

“My question to you, Sebastian Perez, [is] why do you pick on these other fine citizens of Corpus Christi, why don’t you knock yourself out spraying, tagging, marking on your girlfriend’s house, her mother’s house, your friend’s house, your mother’s house,” Saldana said at the original sentencing. “Knock yourself out.”

Deanna McQueen, the Corpus Christi police force’s graffiti enforcer, said the eight-year sentence was an appropriate deterrent to other taggers, and declared, “It was a good day … for the citizens of Corpus Christi.”

The Corpus Christi Caller-Times reported that the damage to private property from Perez’s tagging amounted to $7,300. Blogger Will Sherman at Animal New York calculates that the cost to taxpayers of incarcerating Perez for eight years in Texas would have amounted to $140,000.

This is not the first case of taggers receiving lengthy sentences in Corpus Christi. Last summer, 19-year-old Ralph Mirabal was sentenced to three concurrent sentences of eight years for graffiti damage to some 30 properties. Mirabal had reneged on a plea deal to join the Army, and was given a lengthy sentence as a result.

The following video was broadcast on KIII-TV in Corpus Christi, December 18, 2009.

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