Courtroom Antics From One of Miami's Strangest
Victor-Hugo Vaca has a creative way of
getting his point across. To protest the nastiness of bureaucracy, the wayward,
fiercely opinionated, Naval officer-turned-artist has tried everything from
paintings across from the VIP section at Art Basil. Wherever he goes,
controversy seems to follow.
So it's no wonder a court transcript from his most recent legal battle -- in
which he's representing himself -- reads more like a
lawyer is suing him for about $8,000 but that's not the interesting part.)"The powers that be are trying to censor me," Vaca says."Little old me."
(Riptide has a sneaking suspicion there's a bit of paranoia involved.) A judge, he says, will now decide whether he should be held in contempt of court.
As the case began in 2006, over a payment disagreement, the
writer/painter planned the satirize the legal system through his art. In his
online graphic novel, Crackhead Jesus, Vaca weaves quotes from his own
hearings with fictional appearances from symbolic characters like Prince and
Jesus Christ and draws up to 70,000 hits per month. "I make it so
outlandish that it's clearly parody," he says. "That way I'm safe from
Not everybody is laughing. Both the judge and opposing council are now sick of
his antics.In May 2007, Palm Beach County Judge Donald Hafele caught the
38-year-old artist video-taping him in his chambers. "I informed [Vaca] in no
uncertain terms that neither my name nor my image is to be used without my
permission," Hafele he told the court. Then he added: "I will seek
whatever civil remedies" necessary to stop him.
Things didn't get much smoother. A few months later, Vaca handed Hafele a
"parody contract" in order to make a statement about the plaintiff's
illegitimate paperwork. In the faux-document, Vaca agrees to "appear nude in
court" and use his "first born" to pay a fee. The judge rolled his eyes,
Then this past June, opposing council member Alexander Conde sent the artist a
heated letter about his Internet writings. It notes Conde's intention to seek
one million dollars, should Vaca continue "callus, wanton and gross attempts to
defame the firm." The lawyer did not return phone calls seeking comment.
Late last month, Judge James Martz took over the case. He will now consider
Vaca's behavior and decide if he should be held in contempt of court. He also
ruled that, for the sake of efficiency, the artist would no longer be able to
serve as his own attorney, Vaca says."It's the legal mafia," Vaca tells
Riptide. "You might want to write that down."
He now plans to turn the experience into -- what else? -- "a major
motion picture." Says to-be Director Alyn Darnay, who is collaborating: "When we film, the
courtroom will be filled with giants, twins and midgets. It's going to be
place where the abnormal is normal.--Natalie O'Neill
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