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Man faces charge in 'Jesus' graffiti

By Times staff writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 3, 2002

ST. PETERSBURG -- A prolific graffiti artist is facing felony charges because he has drawn the name "Jesus" on downtown buildings no less than 122 times, police said.

"He's been busy," said St. Petersburg police Detective Peter Yarbrough. "He has too much time on his hands."

Joseph Durish, a 27-year-old transient, was arrested Wednesday on a charge of felony criminal mischief. He remained in jail Thursday in lieu of $10,500 bail.

City officials say that, during the past two years, Durish has drawn "JESUS" and a Christian fish symbol on the walls of public and private buildings in downtown St. Petersburg, including the Florida International Museum.

The city has received several complaints about the graffiti. The criminal charge against Durish is a felony because the city calculates he has caused about $13,000 in damages.

Sheri Weaver, the city's graffiti abatement coordinator, is in charge of removing unwanted signs and graffiti throughout St. Petersburg. She says she has documented 122 examples of Durish's work.

"We keep a database," Weaver said. "We stay on it and try to keep up with it. It's a good thing we do, or graffiti would be everywhere."

Yarbrough, a detective with the police department's gang intelligence team, typically deals with gang-related graffiti. This case was an exception.

Police said the graffiti artist also drew a series of stylized numbers, 73545, or "Jesus" upside down.

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