Famed Street Artist Who Created Obama "Hope" Poster Pleads Guilty To Federal Contempt Charge

Shepard Fairey, the street artist who created the iconic Barack Obama “Hope” poster, pleaded guilty today to a federal contempt charge stemming from civil litigation brought over the image’s creation.

Fairey admitted destroying electronic records and creating phony documents in a bid to thwart a copyright lawsuit brought by the Associated Press, which contended that Fairey had based the “Hope” image on a photo of Obama snapped by an AP lensman.

The 42-year-old artist had, in fact, used the AP image as the “reference photo” for the Obama artwork. But he generated the fake documents (and sought to delete other records) so that it would appear the “Hope” artwork was based on another 2006 image of Obama with the actor George Clooney.

By doing this, Fairey thought he could protect himself--not to mention his millions in profit from the “Hope” art--from the AP.

A criminal information (click here to download a .pdf) was filed against Fairey today in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. A government exhibit released by prosecutors shows the "Hope" poster in comparison to the two AP photographs.

Fairey faces a maximum of six months in jail for the misdemeanor conviction. He is scheduled to be sentenced on July 16.