Graffiti Vandal Gets Record One-Year Jail Sentence in Phoenix


A judge last month sentenced a Maryvale graffiti tagger to one year behind bars, the harshest sentence in the city's history for a graffiti crime.

Marcos Domingo Mejia, 42, who police described as a longtime gang member, was charged with dozens of counts of vandalizing after his arrest in January of 2009.

Though senior members of gangs typically let their acolytes do the tagging, Mejia was caught after spraying tags on 15 separate properties in broad daylight near 77th Avenue and Indianola. He told police he committed the crimes because he'd been having a "bad day," says Tim Bowling of the city's neighborhood services department.

His spray-painted tags typically consisted of a few scraggly letters -- nothing that remotely resembled art.

Mejia lived part-time in the area with his dad, but it's unknown if he habitually tagged in the area. Police think he did. In any case, neighbors were outraged by the one-day spree and teamed up to throw the book at him in court.

Joining the neighbors to testify was a north Phoenix homeowner association, who learned of the case and sent representatives to tell the judge about the downside of grafitti and lobby for a stiff punishment.

The effort paid off at Mejia's June 21 sentencing. Mejia was ordered to report to jail on July 19 for a one-year term, which officials say is the longest sentence ever in Phoenix for such a crime.

After he's released, Mejia will be prohibited from moving back in with his father or even visiting the Maryvale neighborhood where he tagged for an additional two years, says city prosecutor Will Gonzalez.


July 9: See our update on this case.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.

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