Tale of a Midtown tagger

Wannabe Sacramento graffiti artist amasses charges, spray-paints himself into a corner

Jonathan Paul Shade’s tag, “Tokyo.”

Jonathan Paul Shade’s tag, “Tokyo.”

Additional reporting by Raheem F. Hosseini.

A 19-year-old with a previously spotless arrest record has quickly amassed criminal charges in four counties in his quest to become a recognized graffiti artist.

Sacramento police officers appre hended Jonathan Paul Shade during the broad-daylight hours of May 30, when they said he was tagging the awning of The Executive Suite salon on K and 22nd streets around 1:30 p.m. that Friday.

A remnant of the tag remained scrawled in thin white letters on the awning’s blue fabric last week, including what’s said to be Shade’s chosen tagger name: “Tokyo.”

The awning also shows the wear of past cleanup efforts and signs of other tags.

Shade made his second appearance in Sacramento Superior Court on June 5, where he faces one felony count of defacing property and a misdemeanor count of possessing an aerosol paint container with the intent of committing graffiti.

Property damage to the salon was assessed at $3,000, meaning a felony conviction could bring with it a one-year jail term and up to $10,000 in fines.

This did not sit well with Shade’s father, who interrupted last week’s procedural hearing. “Your honor, is there any way he can just go clean the awning?” said Larry Shade. “It won’t take much time.”

Staring down the dad for a few seconds, Judge John P. Winn admonished the elder Shade to stop talking and reminded him that he was held in contempt for doing the same thing during a previous hearing.

One person who might have taken the dad up on his offer is Julie Mumma. An adjunct professor at Sacramento State University and a criminal-defense attorney not associated with Jonathan Shade’s case, Mumma said prosecuting alleged taggers for felonies does nothing for the community they vandalize and often fails to register with the young perpetrators who don’t fully comprehend their legal predicament.

“Wouldn’t it be better for society to make him perform hours and hours of graffiti removal rather than impose the one-size-fits-all of a felony?” she said. “Harsh sentencing does not reduce recidivism.”

According to data analysis website RAIDS Online, there’s been a 23 percent uptick in vandalism-related arrests in the city of Sacramento over the past 12 months, with 57 occurring between May of this year and last.

Sacramento Police Department logs show that officers arrested 10 people during such calls for service between May 1 and June 9, although only one—Shade’s arrest—involved graffiti. Most vandalism incidents involved the destruction of property, and many were believed to be the result of domestic disputes.

Shade told SN&R he also faces two vandalism charges in Butte County, one more in San Francisco County, and a petty-theft charge for shoplifting in Yolo County. An impressive range, given that he doesn’t own a car.

“I love taking the bus,” Shade said.

The young man didn’t express much concern over the criminal charges, which could brand him a felon for life at age 19. He said he loved the culture of tagging and is trying to get his name everywhere. “I like to compete,” he added. “It feels good to make your mark. I’m trying to be bigger than everybody.”

As to whether he felt sympathy for the property owner whose sign he’s accused of defacing, Shade couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday.

Both Shade and his father seemed excited about the prospect of appearing in the newspaper. “I have been in 23 movies,” Larry Shade said outside the courtroom. “I was in Life with Eddie Murphy. I played a security guard.”

Eyeing his father, the son interrupted. There was a touch of exasperation in his voice. “Dad,” he said, “this is about me.”