A couple of days ago, we ran a short piece about a street artist in Los Angeles, who goes by the name Sabo, who replaced the faces of Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio with those of Jeffrey Epstein and Roman Polanski on a giant billboard that advertised Quentin Tarantino’s new movie “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood”.
As it turns out, Sabo made similar alterations on several bus stop posters advertising the same movie.
In addition, Sabo changed the name of the film to “Once Upon A Time In Pedowood” – and the credits for it to “Weinstein/Buck/NXIVM/Singer Production” – which was apparently in reference to disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein, Democratic donor Ed Buck, the NXIVM sex cult, and director Bryan Singer.
Not So Funny
When I first saw the story about the billboard, I thought it was amusing. A nice smackdown of a couple of despicable characters, Epstein and Polanski – and nothing more than a harmless prank.
But on second thought, it is actually a criminal act and not that funny.
Dollar Amount Determines Penalty
Vandalism is defined as “The willful destruction or damaging of property in a manner that defaces or mars it or that otherwise diminishes the property’s value”.
In this case, Sabo’s street art most likely did thousands of dollars of damage to advertising for a film that has nothing to do with Epstein or Polanski.
It also may have done reputational harm to the film itself. Some people may choose to avoid seeing the film because of its new association with the topic of pedophilia.
Although it’s unlikely that charges will be filed in this matter, Sabo’s “street art” constitutes, at a minimum, a misdemeanor – and, quite possibly, a felony.
In Los Angeles, the law is as follows:
Misdemeanor Vandalism (Damage Less than $400): Punishable by no more than one year in a Los Angeles County jail and a fine of $1,000.
Misdemeanor Vandalism (Damage Less than $10,000): Vandalism causing property damage greater than $400 but less than $10,000 is punishable by no more than one year in a California state prison and a fine of $10,000.
Felony Vandalism (Damage Exceeding $10,000): Vandalism causing property damage in excess of $10,000 is punishable by no more than three years in a California state prison and a fine of $50,000.
Innocent Parties Suffer
The fact that this particular stunt focused on two guys who have been associated with pedophilia doesn’t justify it.
In this case, the company that owns the billboard – and the company that sold the space for the bus stop posters – will likely pay costs to repair or replace the damaged property. As far as we know, they are not known to have been associated with Epstein or Polanski.
Similarly, the company that owns the marketing rights to the film will likely suffer lost sales as a result of Sabo’s vandalism. It is not asserted that the film endorses pedophilia or does anyone associated with the film, as far as we know.
It’s doubtful that any of the individuals and companies affected consider Sabo’s “street art” to be a “harmless prank” or even a politically powerful and important statement [made at their expense].
Supporters of Sabo might argue the end justifies the means. That, in the name of ending Hollywood pedophilia, it is justifiable to vandalize some rich movie company’s billboards.
On the other hand, for those whose property was destroyed, they may think Sabo is a self-promoting asshole with a reckless disregard for other people’s property rights.
It may be politically incorrect for Tarantino and his company to say so. After all, Sabo is against pedophilia [other than pedophiles, isn’t everyone against pedophilia?]
Would Similar Vandalism Be Justified?
What if Sabo had painted epithets on Jeffrey Epstein’s $70 million mansion? Would that be OK?
What if someone defaced the property located at 3 Flintlock Lane in Clifton Park, NY – which is partially-owned by Keith Raniere?
Would it be OK for a street artist to vandalize the Nxivm property at 455 New Karner Road to protest sex trafficking?
Suppose you are a small business person and you paid for a billboard, entirely unrelated to pedophilia. Perhaps you are selling furnaces or cars – and Sabo comes along and swaps out your picture for Epstein or Raniere, or the local pervert in your town – to make a statement against pedophilia, or sex trafficking, or anything that everyone is already against anyway.
Is that OK because, after all, your billboard is certainly not as important as the protest against pedophilia? The cause is more important than your private property.
Still, you might ask, after Sabo defaced your property, “Why can’t Sabo rent his own billboard to make his statement against pedophilia?”
No good. Had Sabo rented his own billboard, no one would care. It would have been legal. It would lose its Robin Hood appeal. It is precisely because Sabo committed a crime that he got publicity for his act.
Should Sabo Make a Profit?
In the Tarantino billboard vandalism, Sabo took credit for the vandalism [he did use drones and two assistant to complete the act] and is now selling prints of the posters.
Should he profit from this or should the proceeds from the sale of his posters go toward paying back the billboard company or others who lost money because of his actions?
If we condone certain acts of vandalism, provided it is for a good cause, and the property affected by the vandalism is owned by a rich person [like Tarantino, or a billboard company] where should we draw the line?
Anti-pedophilia messages are warranted for billboard defacement? How about vandalism to protest rape? Or vandalism to protest murder? Or vegetarianism or anti-Trump or anti-Pelosi?
When is it OK to destroy one person’s property to make your personal protest? How rich must the victim of the vandalism be for it not to be a criminal offense?
Sabo’s Crime Is Applauded
The risk Sabo took in vandalizing the billboard – the risk of getting arrested – is what makes this a great news story. That and the fact that everybody is against pedophilia.
That he broke the law, is virtually heralded. Still, I wonder how reporters who are applauding him now would feel if their offices – or computers – were similarly vandalized.
While a few news outlets called what Sabo did “vandalism”, even those stories were slanted toward Sabo. But some other news outlets used more friendly terms in place of the word “vandalism.”
OK, so Sabo didn’t vandalize, he “hijacked,” “altered,” “doctored” and merely “used” the billboard?
How would those who applaud Sabo feel if he vandalized their house to make his point?
“Don’t vandalize you; don’t vandalize me; vandalize the man behind the tree”.
We don’t want to stifle protest – especially when someone is protesting something as vile as pedophilia. But we don’t want innocent people bearing the brunt of other peoples’ protests – especially if the topic of the protest has nothing to do with them.
Still, I would not want Sabo praised for destroying my property, even if he is opposed to pedophilia [which I am also] and wants to tell the world about it [and take a few bows and sell posters].
We have many creative minds reading Frank Report. We’ll turn it over to readers and let you decide what should be done about this situation.
Let’s hear your thoughts on this topic…