Mona Lisa, Meet Cake – Vandalism and Criminal Mischief

June 2, 2022 Criminal Defense, Theft/Property Crimes

Art is meant to invoke thoughts, feelings, and emotions. There are thousands of art museums across the world, but possibly the most famous is the Louvre located in Paris, France. Millions of people travel to the city of Paris every year to view all of their showcased art, but mainly one in particular: the Mona Lisa.

Recently there was an attempt to vandalize the infamous art piece, with a piece of cake. Sounds strange, but it really happened. It may seem like a harmless prank, but the reality is that vandalizing someone else’s property—especially a world-famous painting—can get you in some serious trouble. The recent incident at the Louvre highlights a type of crime that takes place all across the U.S., even in our state of Florida. Criminal mischief is a serious charge, and one we think is important to highlight for people of all ages.

We will cover the incident at the Louvre, along with Florida’s statute on criminal mischief, as well as Florida’s own example of art getting vandalized.

What was the Incident?

On May 29th, 2022, Paris’ art museum “The Louvre” received an act of vandalism on arguably its most prized possession. The Mona Lisa painting—while small in size—is considered to be one of the most famous art pieces in the world. In 2019 alone, the cultural site attracted 9.6 million visitors, which made it the most visited museum in the world.

The museum is typically filled with security to protect the various rooms filled with historic art. However, just this last Sunday, one visitor made a huge scene by attempting to vandalism the priceless painting.

A 36-year-old man who was disguised as a woman sitting in a wheelchair moved to the front of the displaying area of the Mona Lisa. One spokesperson from the Louvre explained that visitors with disabilities or in a wheelchair have access to move to the very front of other visitors to get a closer look at the work.

According to a statement by the Louvre, the following took place:

“While standing near the painting this individual threw a pastry, he had hidden in his personal belongings at the Mona Lisa’s glass case. This act had no effect on the painting, which was not damaged in any way.”

The statement also included that the Mona Lisa is protected behind an installed display case, which keeps it from getting destroyed. In a video posted on Twitter here, you can hear the man saying in French, “Think of planet Earth, there are people destroying it,” as the security guards escort him out of the museum.

Although the glass protected the painting, the man was arrested by the police and taken to their headquarters in Paris. An investigation has been opened for “the attempt of damaging a cultural property” along with a complaint filed by the Louvre.

Believe it or not, this is not the first time that Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece has been vandalized or attempted to get stolen. In 1911, one of the Louvre employees stole the painting which raised its international profile. Later in the 1950s, the bottom of the painting was partially destroyed by an acid attack, which led to more security around it. Once again in 2009, an attempt to harm the painting was made by a visitor who threw a ceramic cup at it, which luckily only broke the cup and left the Mona Lisa unharmed.

Although this case took place in France, it brings up the crime of criminal mischief, which is still just as common in the United States. Vandalism and graffiti are common acts of criminal mischief, which have their own characteristics and penalties in the state of Florida.

Criminal Mischief in Florida

Under Florida Statute Section 806.13, vandalism falls under the charge of criminal mischief. Criminal mischief is when an individual damage’s another person’s property out of frustration or anger. The property can also be public, including bridges and street signs. This means any form of vandalism like graffiti falls under criminal mischief. Criminal mischief is one of the most common types of crimes acted out by juveniles.

The penalties for a criminal mischief charge in Florida are based on the value of the property that was damaged. The following is a list of penalties for various criminal mischief crimes:

  • For property damage under $200, the criminal mischief charge is a second-degree misdemeanor which is punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.
  • For property damage over $200 but less than $1,000, the criminal mischief charge is a first-degree misdemeanor which is punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
  • For property damage over $1,000, the criminal mischief charge is a third-degree felony which is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000

In order to be charged with criminal mischief, the prosecution must be able to prove that the defendant injures or damages with malicious intent the property belonging to someone else. This can include graffiti or other acts of vandalism. To find out more information on criminal mischief, find our informative blog here.

Example Case in Florida

Even Florida has had its fair share of pieces of art getting vandalized or completely destroyed.

Local Miami artist Najja Moon displayed her sculpture titled, “Your Momma’s Voice in the Back of Your Head,” in March of 2021. The sculpture was placed in Collins Park and had the goal of exploring familiar relationships that “exist across the spectrum of age, gender, race, faith, [and] sexual orientation,” according to the artist’s statement.

However, on December 17th, 2021, the art piece received backlash in the form of vandalism. Someone had used spray paint to deface the sculpture with offensive messages which were aimed at the artist. This included slurs directed at Moon’s sexual orientation and race.

Only a month later on January 17th, 2021, another act of vandalism took place when someone completely tore down the sculpture. The Miami Beach Police Department (MBPD) classified the case as criminal mischief, however, they found little evidence in the investigation and ended up dropping the case.

MBPD spokesperson Ernesto Rodriguez gave a comment to the Miami New Times about the case:

“Unfortunately, there were no solvability factors such as witnesses, video surveillance, etc. Although the investigation is closed, we have increased patrols in the area. As always, we remind our community to immediately contact police if they see something out of the ordinary.”

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

If you or a loved one are accused of a criminal mischief crime involving graffiti or vandalism, you should prioritize reaching out to a defense attorney in Tallahassee, Florida. Criminal mischief is not taken lightly in the state of Florida, and you could wind up facing harsh consequences such as expensive fines or even jail time.

Don Pumphrey and his legal team at Pumphrey Law Firm have experience representing clients all across the state of Florida for various crimes. We understand the importance of strategizing a strong defense for your case and will work tirelessly to ensure your freedom. For a free consultation today, call (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message through our website.

Written by Karissa Key

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