LA artist in 'Hollyweed' sign prank surrenders to police

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A local artist suspected of altering the Hollywood Sign on New Year's morning to make it read "Hollyweed'' surrendered to Los Angeles police Monday and was booked on suspicion on trespassing.

Zachary Cole Fernandez, 30, surrendered at the LAPD's Hollywood station, accompanied by his attorney, shortly after noon, according to City Councilman David Ryu's office and county jail records. He was booked and released on $1,000 bail around 2:40 p.m., according to jail records.

He was given a tentative court date of Feb. 15, pending a decision on whether he will be charged.

City surveillance cameras locked on the iconic sign captured a man dressed in black as he scaled down the sign and carefully placed tarps on the structure to make it read "Hollyweed'' around 3 a.m. Jan. 1, said Sgt. Guy Juneau of the LAPD's Security Services Division.

The tarp was taken down about 11:15 a.m. that day and the sign restored to "Hollywood." The incident was being investigated as misdemeanor trespassing, as opposed to vandalism, because the sign was not damaged in any way, police said.

In an interview two days later with the online magazine Vice, Fernandez -- who goes by the moniker "Jesus Hands'' -- said the effort was inspired by a similar 1976 alteration of the sign carried out by Cal State Northridge art student Danny Finegood, who changed the sign to "Hollyweed'' as part of a school art project in response to a recent relaxation of marijuana laws.

Finegood got an A grade on his project.

"That inspired me, and I dug a bit and found he did some other installs over the years with friends,'' Fernandez said. "... So on the bottom of the left of the 'O,' I wrote, 'A tribute to Mr. Finegood.' The main goal of the piece, however, is to bring about conversation.''

California voters in November approved a measure legalizing recreational marijuana use.

Fernandez posted a photo of the "Hollyweed'' sign on his Instagram page, with the caption "In all it's glory.'' Hundreds of people commented on the photo, praising the work. Responding to one of the first people to post a compliment, Fernandez wrote "Thanks Compa!!''

Tommy Chong also posted a photo with the artist on Twitter.

Ryu said he is pushing to have Fernandez prosecuted.

"The Hollywood Sign has seen many alteration attempts over the years for people seeking notoriety or commercial gain,'' Ryu said. "Pranks of this nature deplete the resources of our valuable public safety personnel, in both responding to the prank and in responding to the increased crowds and copycat attempts that these incidents generate.''

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