Last month, a New York City blogger was arrested for scrawling snarky comments on a controversial sex toy advertisement, which she says was illegally plastered along a construction fence in Greenpoint.
But her own alleged “art crime” may pale in comparison to the cops’ apparent attempt at property destruction: while keeping her detained overnight, she claims that the cops illegally accessed her cell phone and attempted to delete photos of themselves making the arrest.
The woman, who anonymously operates the blog NewYorkShitty.com, is now being represented by prominent civil rights attorney Ron Kuby. In a letter sent to the 94th precinct, Kuby claims that the officers, supervised by Lieutenant Chen, embarked on a “completely unlawful” and ultimately failed attempt to erase her photos of them as she spent seven hours waiting for a desk appearance ticket.
“What he was lacking in legal judgment was made up for in technical incompetence,” notes Kuby. “The photographs, with metadata indicating time of deletion, were recovered. You may wish to instruct members of your command that they should not do this.”
It’s not the first time that NYPD officers have been accused of erasing info on a suspect’s phone to avoid potential embarrassment. Back in 2017, after Bronx officers unknowingly recorded themselves celebrating the arrest of a police accountability activist, they re-arrested the man and attempted to clear the audio from his phone (that effort was also unsuccessful).
The woman speculated that the officers were simply “attitude policing,” with the goal of “putting an intransigent woman in her place.”
The charge she now faces, “making graffiti,” is equally perplexing, according to Kuby, considering that the target of the vandalism is technically illegal. The Department of Buildings explicitly bars advertising signs from construction fences, scaffolds, and sidewalk sheds. But the law has long been selectively enforced, with cops seemingly more interested in busting graffiti artists than the companies behind the equally illicit commercial posters.
These particular ads belong to Dame Products, a vibrator company that is now suing the MTA over their ban on the company's ads. On her blog, the woman said she was driven to take a gold marker to the “bougie sex toy” ads because of their particular brand of “good capitalism/femvertising.” (A publicist for Dame declined to comment).
"They're trying to sell empowerment and that's not how that works," she told Gothamist. "It's psychologically intrusive enough dealing with the legal ads."
“If police were actually concerned about unlawful posting, they’d go after the sex toy company whose posters are illegally placed on the construction site,” noted Kuby, who described his client’s additions as “constructive commentary.”
While Kuby says he's not yet received a response to his letter, the woman did get a phone call last week from a representative of Project Reset, an NYPD-partnered diversion program. She was told if she admitted guilt, then took a two hour workshop, the Brooklyn District Attorney would not prosecute the case.
She says she has no intention of admitting guilt, because “when you get down to it, my real crime was not giving these jerks the fear or respect to which they felt entitled.” Meanwhile, she’s still waiting to hear what action the department plans to take against the officers who allegedly broke into her phone and violated her Fourth Amendment rights.
A spokesperson for the NYPD said the incident was under internal review. The Brooklyn District Attorney's Office did not return a request for comment.