Skip to comments.Artist's Lawyer Calls Stunt Freedom of Speech
Posted on 04/18/2002 1:25:27 PM PDT by marshmallow
After Scott LoBaido's arrest yesterday for disorderly conduct following a surreal stunt in Downtown Manhattan, the artist's attorney claimed the performance expressed an American liberty dear to his client's heart: Freedom of speech.
A small, confused gathering of onlookers watched at the intersection of Leonard Street and Broadway as LoBaido, 32, stood in the street and threw a handful of leaflets into the air, then shouted "Lynne Stewart is a [expletive] terrorist and anyone who supports her is responsible for September 11th!"
LoBaido then threw a block of wood onto the pavement and placed the dummy head of a life-sized effigy of Ms. Stewart on top. With an ax -- painted with red, white and blue stars and stripes -- he chopped off the head and thick gobs of fake blood poured out.
Ms. Stewart, 62, a radical attorney who often represents controversial clients, has been accused by the federal government of helping Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, a blind cleric convicted of masterminding a plot to blow up New York City landmarks, pass messages from prison to his fundamentalist followers since 1999. Her office was within earshot of LoBaido's outburst.
"Fascist punk!" shouted a voice from among the onlookers, as police went to escort LoBaido, a resident of Tompkinsville, out of the intersection.
"Sick!" answered the artist, now held by police.
"Fascist punk!" the same 68-year-old man repeated.
On the sidewalk, LoBaido and the man met eye to eye.
"Sick!" said LoBaido again, as police pulled him away.
"Fascist punk!" repeated Ralph Poynter, a private investigator and representative of Ms. Stewart.
"Sick," said LoBaido, in an exaggerated stage whisper, before being cuffed and charged.
Charles DeStefano of Sunnyside, LoBaido's attorney, said his client was released a few hours later and given a summons to appear in Manhattan Criminal Court at a later date.
"The police wanted to put more charges on him, but I said they couldn't because of the free-speech issue," said DeStefano. "[LoBaido] gave me the 'bloody' ax as my fee."
DeStefano made headlines recently by defending noted pornographer Al Goldstein in a Brooklyn harassment case. He lost the case, which DeStefano maintained had free-speech implications.
A spokesman for Ms. Stewart said she was not in her office and was unavailable for comment.
Sheik Abdel-Rahman is serving a life sentence in the Federal Medical Center, Rochester, Minn. Aside from his 1995 conviction in the landmarks case, he is the alleged mastermind behind the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, according to the government. Earlier this month, Attorney General John Ashcroft identified him as the leader of a group linked to al-Qaida.
Elm Park postal worker Ahmed Abdel Sattar, 42, was charged along with Ms. Stewart in aiding the sheik. Federal prosecutors said the Egyptian native maintained a sinister double life, spreading the sheik's fatwahs while maintaining an open and cheerful disposition at the Manor Road and Eltingville post offices, where he worked for 15 years.
The case is not connected to the attacks of Sept. 11, authorities have said.
Ms. Stewart was charged with aiding terrorism by talking loudly during prison visits supposed to be about legal matters, thereby masking the voices of the sheik and his translator, enabling them to pass information to each other.
Federal prosecutor Joseph F. Bianco did not return phone calls for comment on the status of the case.
Ms. Stewart is a resident of Brooklyn who received her undergraduate degree from Wagner College.
Before the stunt, LoBaido said, "I don't understand the concept of these people and how they're eager to represent the people who want to destroy everything about our country. Now let me go behead!"
Afterward, DeStefano said he respects "Ms. Stewart's right to due process."
"But, I also respect my client's right to express his opinion," he added. "He shouldn't be thought of as a criminal -- he's a patriot. He's an artist."
But Poynter, LoBaido's vocal critic yesterday, said he believes the artist isn't respecting freedom of speech when it comes to other people's opinions.
"When people decide that what they believe is good for everyone else, I call them fascist punks," said Poynter. "I'll fight fascist punks in the street and in the courts."
LoBaido has a penchant for drawing attention through displays that incorporate his politics.
He was last in handcuffs in December, when he was taken into custody for painting an American flag on an Upper West Side school building to protest the local board's anti-Pledge of Allegiance policy.
In March 2001, LoBaido protested the City Council's attempted ban on smoking in all restaurants, including bars inside restaurants. He carried a giant cigarette -- made of cardboard -- and marched from the Whitehall Ferry Terminal to City Hall shouting: "Smokers of the world UNITE!"
Earlier that year, he was thrown out of the Brooklyn Museum for protesting its controversial "Yo Mama's Last Supper" exhibit, which depicted a nude, female Christ figure.
LoBaido, a Catholic, was also arrested and charged with disorderly conduct in September 1999 when he hurled gobs of horse manure at the outside of the same museum, where an exhibit called "Sensation" was about to open. He objected to the museum board's decision to display a portrait of the Virgin Mary by Nigerian artist Chris Ofili, which incorporated elephant dung.
Siding with the conservative views of then-Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, LoBaido said he supported artistic expression, but not when public funds are used to advocate what he said was anti-Catholic sentiment.
LoBaido has also painted billboards depicting the bloody head of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, and Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh with sticks of dynamite in his ears and mouth.
If I were the artist, I would've shouted "Communist b!stard!!" back at 'em....
I still say "socialists" is a more apt word to describe these people. Not that this Mr. Poynter would ever figure that out...
Thread from yesterday:
He was also an anti-Gore protestor:
Nation awaits landmark ruling on Bush v. Gore ... About 100 demonstrators gathered outside the nation's high court in Washington, carrying signs and often arguing among themselves. Even the Man of Steel didn't think the wait was so super; Scott LoBaido of New York, dressed as Superman, lugged a two-sided sign proclaiming this was The End and it was time to say Good Night, Al. The Party Is Over.
http://abcnews.go.com/sections/living/DailyNews/smokerrally010323.html>Fighting for Their Smoking Rights Rally in New York to Protest Proposed Ban
What law did this guy break?
They generally charge you with disorderly conduct youre harshing a cops donut mellow in some way.
Itll get thrown out of court.
Hey, just so long as it's a real law, I'm satisfied.
It'll get thrown out of court.
...and that makes it even better.
LoBaido sounds like someone I'd like to hang out with. I wonder if this is a sign that few arty types are beginning to wake up... nah... that's probably too much to hope.
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