The year I spent in prison and the aftermath has been difficult, but I want to give an objective timeline of the events as they occurred so that other writers might learn from what I’ve experienced. Simply by sticking to the facts, my hope is to showcase some of the cracks in our justice system.
On September 7th, 2010 I was sentenced to 1-3 years in prison, with an additional five years special probation to be served consecutively. In addition, I was ordered to pay back a restitution amount close to $50,000. My probation will be continuously extended until my restitution is paid in full. I was issued this sentence as the result of my conviction on several graffiti-related charges, one felony charge and 69 individual misdemeanor charges. I was 20 years old when I committed the crimes that lead to these convictions. I was 22 when I was sentenced to prison. I am now 25 years old.
Over the past three years, I’ve spent one year and seven months locked down. I served one year in prison, four months in a halfway house, another three months in a county jail, and all of the rest of the time I’ve been supervised by the New York State Board of Parole. I’m writing to you now from my mother’s home. As part of the conditions of my supervision, I must live with a blood relative. I cannot stay anywhere else except for my current residence and I must be home from 9 p.m. to 8 a.m. daily. I am not authorized to drive a vehicle, and I am restricted from owning or possessing any type of graffiti or art-making material. The parole board has refused to allow me to transfer location and serve out my parole/probation in the city of my choice, so I am essentially confined to the city I am from, a place I most certainly do not want to be. My name is Ian de Beer, and I write Hotboy Hert.
I grew up in Buffalo, NY, a small rust-belt city with a struggling blue-collar population. There is a lack of cultural awareness that bleeds into politics and the courts and that can become very dangerous. We have high crime rates, but the city is small enough that if a graffiti writer is doing his thing, he will quickly attract attention. Atak and I had a very active period from 2004-2007. We did a lot of things that have never been done in our city before and haven’t been done since. We started getting strange phone calls from police, just asking us to “stop in and talk,” and when our friend Obvios caught a big case we felt the heat and decided to leave. I moved to Pittsburgh and Atak moved to New York City.
I was actively painting graffiti in Pittsburgh for about eight months. I was eventually arrested and charged with four misdemeanor graffiti-related charges. I was in and out of holdings in one night and I wasn’t very worried about the charges because they were minor and I hadn’t been caught painting my word. About three months later, the Anti-Graffiti Task Force raided my apartment. I was not listed as a resident on the lease to avoid this problem, but I learned that the police can monitor a person of interest to establish residency. The police did not arrest me at this time, but I was now aware that trouble lay ahead. Atak called me and suggested I move to NYC.
I moved on down and would make monthly commutes to Pittsburgh for court-dates. After about a year of that, I was re-arrested in the courtroom and charged with four felonies and 69 misdemeanor charges. My bail was set at $25,000. Thanks to some very good friends, I posted bail and was out in time to catch my story on the evening news. My lawyer at the time said he would need to assemble a team of lawyers to defend me and requested $25,000 to stay on my case. I’ve never been a wealthy person and I could not afford this. I quickly found another lawyer who was willing to put me on a payment plan and quoted me $10,000 for everything. I signed the paperwork and got back on a plane for NYC to get back to work. For the next year I worked seven days a week so I could make my payments and flights to Pittsburgh for court-dates. I also painted some graffiti in NYC … allegedly.
Continue reading the interview over at Massappeal