Crime and Punishment

Arresting R*E*V*O*K

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On Sunday, November 22, a store called 33rd Los Angeles had an event—a group art show— featuring nine nationally famous graffiti artists, one of whom was a 32 year-old star of the medium named Jason Williams, otherwise known as REVOK.

The store mainly retails high end graffiti supplies, including Montana paint, a graffiti-friendly brand made in Barcelona Spain.

Matt Stibbe, 33rd Los Angeles’s owner, says that, while there are certainly taggers
who buy at the store, his main clients are commercial artists and film and commercial production companies. These days graffiti art is used to sell almost anything.

And so is the work of REVOK. Here, for example, he was part of a three artist, six-city tour for Boost Mobile and Sprint.

“He’s just starting to really reap the rewards of his skill,” said Stibbe of Williams. “He’s part of an artists’ collective that has quite a few corporate clients and his work shows in galleries over the world. REVOK used to do a lot of street stuff. But, as far as I know, that’s pretty much in the past for him.”

Unfortunately, because of a little tagging-related tangle with the law last year out in Indio (not his first), Williams was on summary probation. And the terms of his probation were that he couldn’t have any spray paint nor could he have the artistic accoutrements that go with the paint—tips and so on.

(And there was also that recent unpleasantness in Australia. But it’s complicated, so let’s skip it for now.)

In any case, it may have seemed logical from a judge’s point of view, to forbid Williams the use of the tools with which he had broken the law, but it was also about as sensible—and achievable—as telling Kobe never to touch a basketball again or, maybe more aptly, telling a gifted hacker that he or she could never ever again touch a computer. Forbid all you like, but realistically, it just isn’t going to happen.

For reasons that are not terribly clear (something having to do with something unwise he may or may not have said on his twitter acount—the LA County sheriff’s deputies came looking for Williams on Sunday, I guess with the intention of searching him for tagger contraband as, due to the well-publicized event, they knew he’d be engaging in the activity forbidden to him, albeit by invitation in an otherwise legal commercial setting.

According to Stibbe, 15 or more cruisers circled the retail store’s vicinity on Pico Blvd. West of La Brea, for most of the day, occasionally stopping patrons to ask if they were REVOK, or if they knew where REVOK was.

Eventually deputies succeeded in finding the actual REVOK around two-blocks away from 33rd Los Angeles. The officers searched him and found that Williams was carrying—quelle horreur—spray tips.

In short order, Williams was cuffed and arrested. Subsequently, sheriff’s deputies searched Williams’ home and found “hundreds of spray cans,” LASD spokesman, Steve Whitmore told me.

(All involved were quite naturally shocked at this discovery.)


At Williams’ house, Sheriffs also found a phony LAPD badge and a real detour sign. All the graffiti-related stuff was, at most, misdemeanor material. “But the DETOUR sign got him a receiving stolen goods charge,” said Whitmore. “That’s a felony.”

Whitmore could not confirm or dismiss Stibbe’s claim that 15 plus cars full of deputies had been involved in the take down of the tip-packing, sign-hoarding Williams.

But we did have a very nice, wide-ranging philosophical discussion about the sometimes fuzzy line between costly vandalism and real graffiti art—a line that REVOK has blurred with glorious skill and abandon over the years.

Williams’ bail was set at $30,000. By the time that Whitmore and I talked Monday afternoon, he said he thought that REVOK had been bailed out.

Jason Williams booking photo courtesy of the LA County Sheriff’s Department


  • As I’ve said before, some of these guys are real artists.

    However, it doesn’t excuse his violation of probation. He did the crime, he’ll serve the time.

    I don’t know if the DETOUR sign find was legal, but if so, he’s got some real ‘splainin’ to do.

  • Aside from being 32, on probation, and stupid, his pieces really suck. He has no dimension or 3-D effect to his artwork – he needed to retire even before he even started.
    Now he can work on his next masterpiece in jail.
    REVOK has been Revoked.

  • We need to feel compassion for REVOK, he was most likely a victim of reverse discrimination. We all know how liberals are of the opinion that only poor inner-city kids of color need our sympathy and extra government assistance via social programs, but this yet another example of a white man being a victim of society’s neglect.

  • I’m more disturbed by the fact that he had and presumably used a fake LAPD badge – to fool citizens who caught him tagging, maybe? – than by the stolen Detour sign which is counted a felony and hence, the worst charge of all, worse than all the spray cans and badge combined?

    Sure it’s wrong to steal road signs, even if he “Found” an old one knocked over somewhere, but still, something about all this sounds off, as if the sheriff is doing this for PR to show he’s “tough on taggers?” Going after a high-profile person like this at a relatively staid and respectable art event is kind of like nabbing Polanski showing up at a major film festival. Designed to get max attention maybe?

  • A bit silly WBC and his most serious charge will probably be the violation of probation. Now he gets to tell the judge why he ignored his order, judges don’t like that. Your thought that if caught tagging he would maybe flash the bad is a bit off I’d say, wouldn’t a witness still wonder why a cop is tagging?

    The guy has to grow up and looks like that will have to happen in a locked setting.

    You seem to take this a bit lightly Celeste. How about some social justice for inner city residents who pay the cost of this type “art” that business owners get rid of and pass the cost on to consumers that can least afford it?

  • Surefire, I expressed my feelings about tagging and the damage it does to small business owners etc, back on the post about Trutanich’s desire for tagger injunctions. Didn’t think I needed to do it again.

    As for the story, I deliberately took a non-judgmental tone as I thought it was an interesting tale and that people could make up their own minds about where they stood on it.

    Personally, I think it’s a tad over the top in terms of public resources if the LASD really did sent 15 cars out to find a guy who, as you said, when you get down to it is guilty of a technical violation of summary probation.

    They’re not accusing him of additional graffiti. He appears to occasionally still do the street thing, but it seems to be now a deal like the alcoholic who back slides now and then. But no one seems to be suggesting that he has new pieces up in LA County. And unlike other lawbreakers, when this guy breaks the law its meant to be noticed.

    (I refused to comment on the matter of the Detour sign.)

    Okay, now I’m going back to correcting papers.

  • You make no sense some times Celeste. An example would be your thought that there’s a “fuzzy line between costly vandalism and real graffiti art”. The penal code is clear on what constitutes vandalism, nothing fuzzy about it. Graffiti art has it’s place and it’s not on the side of something owned due to someone’s hard work that didn’t ask for it and didn’t want it.

    Didn’t know I needed to jump back to the Trutanich post when your words seemed pretty clear here (quelle horreur). That you don’t see any problm with him having items that are banned by his probation means what, minor violations are ok with you?

    Guess in your world a wheel gun as compared to an auto would be ok in the hands of a gangster with terms. I mean a guy needs some back up right?

  • Graffiti is the revenge of the inarticulate proletariate. I say bust Williams ass! Paint a yellow happy face on it. That’ll teach the scofflaw. Why don’t they graffiti their own house walls and garages?


    Transport Authorised Officers from the Asset Protection Unit (APU) were commended this week by Victoria Police for their determined and relentless investigation into an internationally known vandal from the United States that came to Australia with the intention to, in his words, ‘….make graffiti history.’ The pathetic vandal, who goes by the name of Revok, was seized in a dramatic arrest by police at Melbourne airport as he was about to board his flight home to the USA via Sydney. He was charged with graffiti vandalism-related offences and remanded in custody.
    This idiot brought himself to the attention of the APU when he vandalised one of our trains in the Macaulay sidings. Although two men were apprehended that night, Revok was unfortunately not one of
    them. The APU tasked him and began to investigate. Like all graffiti vandals, his misguided obsession for notoriety was also his vulnerability, and in the case of Revok his downfall.
    Using a variety of investigative methods, the APU was able to establish his identity, and from that his movements were tracked. As data was being collated, important information came to the APU that Revok was heading out of the country the same day. Then followed a timely phone call to Victoria Police. The result was that as Revok was heading to his plane thinking he was home and hosed, he was arrested, charged and remanded in custody.
    His case was heard at the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court the following day where he was found guilty on all counts. He received a nine-month suspended sentence and was ordered to pay $15,340 in restitution.
    ‘This result is a great example of cross-organisation cooperation and team work. The collaboration between the Victoria Police and the AO department is to be commended, said Jim Dimitrioski, Customer Service Manager for Authorised Officers and security. ‘Most importantly, a message has now been sent to would-be vandals that Australia, and in particular Melbourne and its trains, are not easy targets.’

  • “The APU tasked him and began to investigate”
    I don’t like them APU, I don’t like em! I don’t like em! I don’t like em!

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