By Nandika Doobay
Nathan DeLuna, alleged member of the "VTC" graffiti crew, was sentenced yesterday (Monday) to serve one year probation and 60 hours of community service and pay $300 in restitution fees for aiding in the vandalization of property near 1865 N. Milwaukee last August.
The VTC tag, which some say stands for "Vandalize the City" or "Vandals Taking Chicago," can be seen in numerous locations around the Wicker Park, Bucktown, and Humboldt Park neighborhoods, mostly along the Blue Line.
DeLuna, 17, of suburban Winnetka, was convicted in February of criminal damage to property and possession of spray paint. According to a report on the court hearing, police apprehended Andrew Giniat, another VTC member, in the act of defacing the Wicker Park property and found DeLuna waiting in a Mercedes-Benz, acting as a lookout. He also had spray paint in his possession.
Graffiti Removal, Pipeline file photo graffiti removal, pipeline file photo
In attendance at Monday's sentencing were many representatives from the Wicker Park community, such as 32nd Ward Alderman Waguespack, Distrct 14 Police officers, court advocates, and property owners. After seeing the large group who had come on behalf of the community, DeLuna could be heard asking a family member, "Why are all these people here, just to look at me?" to which his court-appointed public defender responded, "To put pressure on the judge."
Officer Soto of District 14 was the witness and brought three items of evidence that he claimed tied DeLuna to the crimes or affiliations with graffiti crews. Item 1 was a mugshot of the back of DeLuna's head from the night of his arrest in August. In the mugshot, the letters "VTC" can be seen etched into DeLuna's hair. The other two items were print outs of DeLuna's Facebook page, where he lists activities such as graffiti, an interest in spray cans, and made posts as late as May 12 saying that he's "getting ready 2 tag on yo trains" and that he "hopes things go good 2night and I can go paint."
DeLuna's court-appointed defender tried his best to disclaim all evidence, but it was uncertain whether the lawyer understood how Facebook works and was unable to make a case against it. As for the mugshot, DeLuna claimed the etching said "VTO" and not "VTC," to which the judged replied that it personally appeared to be a "C" to him and told DeLuna "you cannot lie your way through life." The judge then sentenced DeLuna to 1 year probation and 60 hours of community service and ordered him to pay $300 in restitution fees.
When asked if community members were pleased with the outcome of the sentencing, Alderman Waguespack said, "He was given the maximum sentence he could receive so I am satisfied with the judge's decision." He then added "we spent far too much time and resources of the community, residents, and police trying to stop Nathan DeLuna from destroying property."
--by Nandika Doobay, firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: This story appeared in the May 18, 2010 Pipeline e-newsletter, but due to space I am hosting it in its entirety here.