Charges related to graffiti don’t often lead to jail time but a former Dallas mayoral candidate could face a third degree felony charge if he is accused of targeting monuments with significance to the lesbian and gay community, say police.
The Dallas Morning News reported how nine months after a dozen locations — including the Legacy of Love Monument at Cedar Springs, Dallas City Hall, Oak Lawn, the Cathedral of Hope near Dallas Love Field and The Dallas Morning News — were vandalized with a red “666,” a grand jury has indicted “perennial Dallas mayoral candidate” Richard Sheridan.
The newspaper reported the comments of Assistant Dallas Police Chief Randy Blankenbaker who said Sheridan has been indicted, arrested and charged with vandalizing the Legacy of Love Monument and the Cathedral of Hope. He said the graffiti charge is a state jail felony, but if it’s proved Sheridan selected the targets because of their “significance to the LGBT community,” that charge could be upgraded to a third-degree felony.
Blankenbaker said that Sheridan has not been charged with putting graffiti on 10 other instances of graffiti “at this time.” Police say they spent a considerable amount of time on the investigation, and the two cases that led to Sheridan’s indictment and arrest were the strongest cases.
Sheridan was questioned by police last summer, according to reports. Sheridan told The Dallas Morning News he did not tag the locations but also told a reporter he agreed with the tags, the newspaper reported. He was reported as saying the tags were “not a hate crime [but] an act of love — and a warning.”
The report said Sheridan regularly distributes anti-gay leaflets around City Hall. He has also been escorted out of council chambers more than once.
In Texas, state jail felonies are punishable by 180 days to two years in state jail and a fine of up to $10,000.
If lawmakers identify a crime as a felony but do not designate it as a particular kind of felony or set a specific sentence, then the felony is a state jail felony.
A third degree felony is punishable by 2 to 10 years’ in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. There are a number of circumstances in which a judge must punish a defendant who is convicted of a state felony to a third degree felony.
These include cases in which a deadly weapon is used in the commission of the crime or the defendant has previously been convicted of a felony.
The number of people charged with hate crimes in Texas is low compared to many other states. In 2010, the total number of reported Texas hate crime incidents was 168. If you are charged with one of these offenses you are likely to be facing a considerable time behind bars and it’s important to hire a seasoned Dallas criminal defense attorney.