Utility box graffiti artist pleads no contest

Published On: Jun 16 2014 04:09:53 PM EDT   Updated On: Jun 16 2014 04:16:03 PM EDT

A man who painted graffiti on 11 traffic control utility boxes throughout the city of Jacksonville has pleaded no contest to criminal mischief.

Kevin "Chip" Southworth was ordered to pay more than $300 in fines and make nearly $800 in restitution. He's already done his community service, and received no jail time or probation.

Southworth's paintings were a tribute to dead artist Keith Haring.

Between Aug. 15 and Dec. 29, the boxes owned and maintained by the city were spray-painted with graffiti, resulting in about $1,100 in damages.

Jacksonville police said investigative efforts revealed Southworth (pictured) photographed the graffiti on the traffic control boxes and uploaded them to Facebook accounts, claiming them as his own works of art as a tribute to Haring.

Police identified Southworth as Haring's "ghost."

They said several articles of evidence were recovered during a search warrant that was executed to include articles of clothing he used to do a media interview, his cellphone with several pictures of the criminal mischief graffiti to the traffic control boxes, and pieces of artwork he used to create the graffiti he put on the control boxes.

Southworth told police he was the person who did the graffiti and set up the two Facebook accounts under the name of "Keith Haring X 2013" and "Keith Haring's Ghost," investigators said.

The maximum penalty for the crime was five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

"Chip Southworth is a lifelong resident of Jacksonville. He is a veteran of the U.S. Navy Presidential Guard and has always been very active in our community," Southwick's attorney, John Phillips, said in a statement at the time of his arrest. "He has worked with the Chamber, the City Council and the Cultural Council regarding his art. Some of his art is currently hanging in the Cummer Museum and he was recently commissioned by the City of Jacksonville to paint a portrait."

City workers painted over the graffiti on the traffic control utility boxes in the days after Southworth's arrest.


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