Two artists accused of defacing planters in uptown Kingston with now-iconic stencils of red goats have turned down a plea deal and chosen to go to trial in a case that could hinge on the distinction between art and vandalism.
Geddes J. Paulsen, 23, and Maggie J. Salesman, 26, were arrested last November and charged with felony criminal mischief. According to police, on the night of Oct. 25, 2011 the pair used a stencil and red spray paint to emblazon 33 goat symbols on 11 newly installed snow-white planters along Wall and North Front streets in the heart of the city’s Stockade District. The next night, Salesman allegedly painted numbers on the goats in white marker. Following their arrest, purportedly after they were identified in security-camera images from a Wall Street business, the two were charged with felonies based on the dollar amount of the damage done to the planters. The red goat design, meanwhile, has been adopted by some local residents and business owners as a symbol for Uptown Kingston, written about in The New York Times and defended as a laudable example of “street art.”
Officials at the Ulster County District Attorney’s Office would later drop the charges to a pair of misdemeanors: criminal mischief and making graffiti. According to Salesman’s attorney, Bryan Rounds, the DA’s office also offered a deal — 50 hours of community service and a total of $6,000 in restitution — in exchange for a guilty plea on a single misdemeanor charge. But last week, both defendants rejected the deal, opting to go to trial in city court instead. If convicted, the two face a potential sentence of a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Rounds did not concede that his client had spray-painted the planters. But, the veteran defense attorney said, even if she had he would argue that her actions did not meet the “intent to damage” threshold necessary for conviction on both charges.