AP NEWS

Two women plead guilty to spray-painting two San Antonio landmarks

January 25, 2019

Two women accused of spray-painting graffiti at two San Antonio missions pleaded guilty Thursday to a federal charge of depredation of government property and have agreed to pay more than $10,000 for damages.

Gabriella Petra Fritz, 21, and Sydney Elizabeth Faris, 22, admitted that in the early hours of June 21, 2018, they, along with a third suspect, Andres Castañeda, sprayed graffiti on walls, signs or in the parking lots at Mission San Jose and Mission San Juan. Both have active Catholic parishes and are part of the National Park Service. In 2015, they were designated World Heritage sites.

Fritz and Faris face up to 10 years in prison when U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez sentences them in April. The plea deals also call for them to jointly be responsible for $10,483 in restitution.

Court records show Castañeda, 19, is scheduled for a plea hearing next week, though a plea agreement had not been filed for him as of Thursday.

The matter made local headlines in part because the graffiti included the phrase “I Don’t Care” and “Do you?” — which some observers claimed was a reference to similar wording on a jacket that First Lady Melania Trump wore during a visit to the Rio Grande Valley last year. The graffiti also contained an obscene message to an agency that handles immigration enforcement, records show.

The trio turned themselves in or were arrested after authorities released surveillance video of them tagging the missions the next day, and San Antonio police filed state felony graffiti charges against them. They were indicted separately on the federal charge in July. Their motive for the graffiti is unclear, though police believe they may have acted under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Fritz, for instance, apparently has a drug addiction, records show. She was arrested in September after violating conditions of bond in her federal case and she reportedly admitted using cocaine and contacting Castañeda, who also was arrested on allegations of violating bond. Though a federal magistrate judge later reinstated bonds for both, Castañeda was released. Faris’ release depended on her seeking treatment at an inpatient drug treatment program, records show.

But she also missed a court hearing in her state case stemming from the same graffiti incident, according to the lawyer in her federal case, Stephen Harkiewicz. He said Faris wrongly assumed the state case was no longer active, so an arrest warrant was issued. She has remained in custody while that is resolved, the attorney said. She appeared in jail garb at Thursday’s plea hearing.

Harkiewicz said he couldn’t discuss whether drugs had anything to do with her tagging the missions.

“I really can’t say much about that,” Harkiewicz said. “She obviously pleaded guilty and takes responsibility for her actions and certainly wants to make amends for what she did.”

Guillermo Contreras covers federal court and immigration news in the San Antonio and Bexar County area. Read him on our free site, mySA.com, and on our subscriber site, ExpressNews.com. | gcontreras@express-news.net | Twitter: @gmaninfedland

AP RADIO
Update hourly