Sun, Jun 12, 2016 - Page 3 News List

Video of couple vandalizing metros sparks controversy

By Sean Lin  /  Staff reporter

Footage of a US couple allegedly trespassing into MRT stations in Taipei and Kaohsiung and vandalizing trains in 2012 has sparked controversy after it was released on the Internet late last month.

The suspects’ identities were subsequently uncovered when one of them was arrested in Australia.

The couple, going by the pseudonyms Utah and Ether, showcased their brand of “art” by allegedly daubing graffiti on metro carriages in Asian countries and selling a series of documentaries titled Probation Vacation: Lost in Asia, as well as a book with the same title — documenting their journeys of vandalism — on the Internet.

A video clip was last month released on the duo’s Web site, utahether.com, showing their alleged offenses in Taiwan. It was uploaded after “Ether,” a man from Chicago named Jim Clay Harper, was arrested a week earlier in Australia for his latest offenses.

The four-minute preview video begins with scenes of the couple allegedly climbing over a fence and cutting open wire fencing at a Kaohsiung MRT facility after dark, before spraying the letters “MTG” onto a carriage and fleeing the scene.

It later shows the couple allegedly adopting a similar modus operandi at a Taipei MRT depot, vandalizing a substantial part of a train carriage.

A search on the Internet found the book and the documentaries hit the shelves at the Grifters Journal, a Web site promoting subculture and unorthodox artists, just weeks before Harper was arrested in Melbourne after reportedly being subdued by a civilian.

The Age reported that Harper, 31, was pinned down by a single father, who was identified simply as Luke, for allegedly tagging storefronts.

While the police rushed to arrest Harper, “Utah,” a 34-year-old US woman named Danielle Bremner, slipped past police deployed at an airport and flew to Hong Kong, the Age said in a separate report.

Harper was sentenced to six months in prison for possession of a knife, unlawful assault, vandalism and attempted robbery for trying to steal Luke’s cellphone during a scuffle, it said.

The Taipei Rapid Transit Corp (TRTC) said it had installed more surveillance cameras and stepped up patrols after the 2012 incident, and it was the last case of vandalism involving spray-painting that it has had to deal with.

The TRTC said it had mended the fencing allegedly breached by the duo, and it would seek compensation for the damage.

The Taipei Police Department said that people who vandalize MRT facilities would incur a fine of between NT$1,500 and NT$7,500 and could face a maximum jail term of two years.

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