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Crime & Litigation



Man who damaged Banksy art in Utah gets probation

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Written by LINDSAY WHITEHURST, Associated Press   
Wednesday, 19 November 2014 09:55

Dreweatts & Bloomsbury sold this Banksky painting in December 2013 in London for $291,326. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com Archive and Dreweatts & Bloomsbury.

PARK CITY, Utah (AP) – A California man who pleaded guilty to defacing two murals believed to have been created by the mysterious British graffiti artist Banksy was sentenced to five years' probation Monday.

David William Noll already has paid $9,100 toward restoring the two works damaged on New Year's Eve. Prosecutors agreed not to seek jail time in the case if he pays the restoration costs, which are expected to total about $12,000.

Noll, 36, apologized for damaging the works, saying he suffers from bipolar disorder and remembers little of the night.

After the sentencing hearing, Noll told reporters he has launched a website to sell T-shirts and other items printed with his own art. He said he'll use the proceeds to reimburse his parents for the restoration costs.

Noll said he had some random anger at the time the works were damaged but he doesn't recall his exact motivation for defacing them. Police say he drove to Utah from California, defaced the works and drove back. Now in therapy, Noll said he likes Banksy's work.

Prosecutor Matthew Bates said he's happy with the resolution to the case, which calls for Noll to serve his probation in California and perform 100 hours of community service.

“Banksy” is a pseudonym for the graffiti artist known for silhouetted figures and spray-painted messages that show up in unexpected places. His works have sold for as much as $1.1 million at auction.

The Park City murals appeared on the city's historic Main Street in 2010, around the time Banksy was in town for the Sundance Film Festival debut of his documentary, Exit Through the Gift Shop.

One depicts a young boy with a pink halo and angel wings kneeling to pray behind a can of pink paint. It was found covered in brown spray paint after the protective glass was shattered. Also damaged was a bulletproof-glass cover over a mural of a cameraman shooting video footage of a flower. A spider-web crack on the glass obscured the image.

Though Banksy's work could be considered graffiti itself, Bates said the owners of the buildings wanted it and protected it, which made defacing it a crime.

Police say they arrested Noll after finding YouTube videos he made of the vandalism in both Utah and California, where he remains on probation.

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-11-17-14 2319GMT



ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE

Dreweatts & Bloomsbury sold this Banksky painting in December 2013 in London for $291,326. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com Archive and Dreweatts & Bloomsbury.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 19 November 2014 10:26
 

Egypt sentences 3 Germans over theft of antiquities

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Written by Associated Press   
Thursday, 13 November 2014 10:00
The Great Pyramid, which contains the burial chamber of King Khufu. Image by Berthold Werner. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.

CAIRO (AP) – An Egyptian court has sentenced nine people, including three Germans who were tried in absentia, to five years in prison for theft and smuggling of antiquities.

The Giza Criminal Court issued its ruling on Tuesday, concluding that the men had chipped off a piece of stone from the burial chamber of King Khufu inside the Great Pyramid. The men were apparently trying to prove a theory that the pyramids were built by a civilization pre-dating the ancient Egyptians. German prosecutors identified two of the convicted Germans as Stefan Erdmann and Dominique Goerlitz, who is described in the German press as an “experimental archaeologist.”

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-11-11-14 1636GMT



ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE
The Great Pyramid, which contains the burial chamber of King Khufu. Image by Berthold Werner. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.
Last Updated on Thursday, 13 November 2014 10:07
 

Judge approves bankruptcy exit plan for Detroit

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Written by ED WHITE, Associated Press   
Monday, 10 November 2014 10:47
Detail of a Diego Rivera fresco at the Detroit Institute of Art. Image by Carptrash (talk). This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 license. DETROIT (AP) – A judge cleared Detroit to emerge from bankruptcy Friday, approving a hard-fought turnaround plan with a fervent plea to the people of this one-time industrial powerhouse to “move past your anger” and help fix the Motor City.

“What happened in Detroit must never happen again,” federal Judge Steven Rhodes said in bringing the case to a close a relatively speedy 16 months after Detroit – the cradle of the auto industry – became the biggest city in U.S. history to file for bankruptcy.

The plan calls for cutting the pensions of 12,000 non-public safety retirees by 4.5 percent, erasing $7 billion of debt and spending $1.7 billion to demolish thousands of blighted buildings, make the city safer and improve long-neglected basic services.

Rhodes praised decisions that settled the most contentious issues in the case, including a deal to prevent the sale of world-class art at the Detroit Institute of Arts and a consensus that prevented pension cuts from getting even worse. He said the pension deal “borders on the miraculous,” though he acknowledged the cuts could still cause severe misfortune for many who have been trying to get by on less than $20,000 a year.

Politicians and civic leaders, including Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, hailed Friday's milestone as a fresh start for the city. It was Snyder who agreed with state-appointed emergency manager Kevyn Orr to take the city into Chapter 9, a drastic, last-ditch move that he promoted during his fall re-election campaign.

Detroit was brought down by a combination of factors, including corruption and mismanagement at City Hall, a long decline in the auto industry, and a flight to the suburbs that caused the population to plummet to 688,000 from 1.2 million in 1980. The exodus has turned entire neighborhoods into desolate, boarded-up landscapes.

With more square miles than Manhattan, Boston and San Francisco combined, Detroit didn't have enough tax revenue to cover pensions, retiree health insurance and buckets of debt sold to keep the budget afloat.

“Detroit's inability to provide adequate municipal services runs deep and has for years. It is inhumane and intolerable, and it must be fixed,” the judge said.

In signing off on the plan, Rhodes appealed to residents who expressed sorrow and disgust about the city's woes.

“Move past your anger. Move past it and join in the work that is necessary to fix this city,” he said. “Help your city leaders do that. It is your city.”

With Orr's term over and the city recently returned to the control of elected officials, “It is now time to restore democracy to the people,” the judge said.

The case concluded in lightning speed by bankruptcy standards. The success was largely due to a series of deals between Detroit and major creditors, especially retirees who agreed to accept smaller pension checks after Rhodes said they had no protection under the Michigan Constitution. Also, bond insurers with more than $1 billion in claims eventually dropped their push to sell off art and settled for much less.

It took more than two years for a smaller city, Stockton, Calif., to get out of bankruptcy. San Bernardino, a California city even smaller than Stockton, is still operating under Chapter 9 protection more than two years after filing.

Rhodes had to accept Detroit's remedy or reject it in full, not pick pieces. His appointed expert, Martha “Marti” Kopacz of Boston, said it was “skinny” but “feasible,” and she linked any future success to the skills of the mayor and City Council and a badly needed overhaul of technology at City Hall.

The most unusual feature of the plan is an $816 million pot of money funded by the state, foundations, philanthropists and the Detroit Institute of Arts. The money will forestall even deeper pension cuts and avert the sale of city-owned art at the museum – a step the judge warned “would forfeit Detroit's future.”

Mayor Mike Duggan, in office less than a year, is the fourth mayor since 2008, when Kwame Kilpatrick resigned in a scandal. A dreadful debt deal under Kilpatrick that locked Detroit into a high interest rate when rates were falling during the recession contributed to the bankruptcy.

Detroit Regional Chamber President and CEO Sandy K. Baruah declared Detroit to be “on the cusp of a new era and primed to reinvent itself in a way many people did not think possible.”

“Exiting bankruptcy so effectively and thoughtfully has wiped out decades of mismanagement and created a historic opportunity to move the city without mortgaging its future,” Baruah said.

___

Follow Ed White at http://twitter.com/edwhiteap

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-11-08-14 0406GMT



ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE
Detail of a Diego Rivera fresco at the Detroit Institute of Art. Image by Carptrash (talk). This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 license.
Last Updated on Monday, 10 November 2014 10:57
 

Museum board opts out of Nazi-looted painting dispute

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Written by Associated Press   
Monday, 10 November 2014 10:25

'Shepherdess Bringing in Sheep,' Camille Pissaro, oil on canvas, 1886. Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, University of Oklahoma. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Paintings.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – A national board said it won't investigate the accreditation status of the University of Oklahoma's art museum, where a hangs.

The 1886 piece, called Shepherdess Bringing In Sheep, is currently on display at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, The Oklahoman reported.

Leone Meyer of France claims she is the rightful heir to the art she said was stolen from her family by the Nazis during World War II. She is suing the university to have the painting returned.

The school maintains it's the rightful owner of the painting. It was bequeathed by an oil tycoon's wife, who bought the art with her husband in 1956 at a New York gallery. She donated it to the college among more than 30 other works valued at around $50 million.

OU has refused to return the work to Meyer, citing a previous Swiss court ruling that denied the family's claim based on a technicality. It doesn't dispute that the painting was stolen by Nazis.

Oklahoma state Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City, asked the American Alliance of Museums last week in a letter to investigate the museum's accreditation status. The board said it won't because of ongoing litigation.

“The accreditation commission is not a legal body,” Alliance President Ford Bell said.

___

Information from: The Oklahoman, http://www.newsok.com

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-11-07-14 2011GMT



ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE

'Shepherdess Bringing in Sheep,' Camille Pissaro, oil on canvas, 1886. Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, University of Oklahoma. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Paintings.

Last Updated on Monday, 10 November 2014 10:54
 

Court battle over giant Brazilian emerald nears resolution

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Written by LINDA DEUTSCH, AP Special Correspondent   
Friday, 17 October 2014 09:56

The Gachala Emerald is one of the largest gem emeralds in the world, at 858 carats (171.6 g). Found in 1967 at La Vega de San Juan mine in Gachalá, Colombia, it is housed at the National Museum of Natural History of the Smithsonian Institution. Image by thisisbossi. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license.

LOS ANGELES (AP) – An incredible hulk of an emerald weighing 840 pounds (381 kilograms) was hauled out of a Brazilian mine more than a decade ago and began a global odyssey that ended in Los Angeles Superior Court, where a fight over its ownership is nearing resolution.

On Tuesday, a judge eliminated from consideration gem trader Mark Downie, one of the men claiming ownership of the emerald that has been appraised at $372 million. It is considered one of the largest in the world.

Downie was the second claimant to be eliminated from consideration by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Michael Johnson. The judge found Downie's claim was not credible.

One more trial awaits for a group of purported owners that includes gem trader Kit Morrison, who was trying to sell the gem in Las Vegas when authorities confiscated it. He says he received it as collateral from a gem dealer for a shipment of diamonds for which he paid $1.3 million but never received.

The emerald came into the U.S. in early 2005 and was kept in San Jose, Calif., for a time before being taken to New Orleans, according to a lawyer for the remaining group of claimants, including Morrison.

The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, which trucked it to Los Angeles, now has it under lock and key.

The emerald, that was pulled from a mine in the jungles of Brazil's Bahia state and is known as the Bahia Emerald, is not going to win any beauty contests. According to those who have seen it, it is a hulking brute of a gem, with several thick green rods the size of a man's forearms jutting out of a stone base.

Lawyers said that museums including the Smithsonian and the Getty have expressed interest in obtaining it for their collections. Its value is as an art object, and it can't be broken down to make jewelry, they said.

Last month, the Federative Republic of Brazil submitted a motion claiming the emerald is a piece of the country's cultural and scientific heritage and should be returned there.

A hearing is scheduled for January to determine if Brazil has a claim.

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-10-16-14 0007GMT



ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE

The Gachala Emerald is one of the largest gem emeralds in the world, at 858 carats (171.6 g). Found in 1967 at La Vega de San Juan mine in Gachalá, Colombia, it is housed at the National Museum of Natural History of the Smithsonian Institution. Image by thisisbossi. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license. 

Last Updated on Friday, 17 October 2014 10:09
 
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