Graffiti suspect faces felony charge

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In 2005, Daniel Joseph Montano denied he was the person who had spray-painted the graffiti tag "MFOME" throughout Lawrenceville, Schenley Farms, East Liberty, Bloomfield and Shadyside.

Last year, he admitted to being the tagger after his arrest by Pittsburgh police and got five days of jail time and a fine of $1,001.

Late Saturday, Mr. Montano, 21, was arrested again, this time in Oakland, after a witness called 911 to report a vandal was spray-painting several buildings.

Now, police have charged him with possessing instruments of crime and criminal mischief and assessed the damage of his handiwork at about $25,000.

He was taken to the Allegheny County Jail and is free on $2,000 straight bond.

"This office takes these types of offenses very seriously," said Mike Manko, a spokesman for the Allegheny County district attorney's office. "We charge them with what we can, which is criminal mischief, and if damage exceeds $5,000, it becomes a felony."

Mr. Manko said the DA's office does not place graffiti vandals in accelerated rehabilitative disposition programs. Under ARD, first-time offenders need not enter pleas of innocence or guilt, but can be given six to 24 months' probation, after which their criminal records are expunged.

He said the DA's office hopes graffiti vandals will at least be placed on probation so that in the event of future arrests a judge can sentence them to jail.

Police and neighborhood groups have for years been upset at graffiti vandals' lenient treatment by the courts.

Officers responded Saturday to a 911 call of someone spray-painting buildings at Melwood and Centre avenues. University of Pittsburgh police Officer Juan Polanco saw a man matching the caller's description and apprehended Mr. Montano.

According to City Councilman William Peduto, new graffiti with Mr. Montano's tag -- "MFOME" -- began appearing in recent days on Melwood and Centre avenues.

"We're asking the district attorney now to go for full prosecution," said the councilman, who used funds for his council district to purchase digital cameras used by the police bureau to document graffiti.

"The district attorney has sought to get stronger penalties but has not been successful in the county courthouse. Right now, we need to set an example."

Correction/Clarification: (Published Mar. 21, 2007) Daniel Joseph Montano is the graffiti artist arrested the week of Mar. 11, 2007 on charges of possessing instruments of crime and criminal mischief. His first name was incorrect in this story as originally published Mar. 20, 2007.

Rich Lord can be reached at or 412-263-1542. Steve Levin can be reached at or 412-263-1919.


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