Picasso vandalism suspect to return to Houston

Uriel Landeros charged with graffiti, criminal mischief

HOUSTON - After nearly seven months on the run, a man accused of vandalizing a Picasso at the Menil Collection has turned himself over to authorities.

According to the Harris County District Attorney's Office, Uriel Landeros turned himself in at the Hidalgo Port of Entry shortly after crossing the border from Mexico into the United States about 4 p.m. on Tuesday. He has been charged with criminal mischief and felony graffiti, both of which are third-degree felonies.

"I encouraged him to turn himself in because the longer he stayed gone, the worse it looks and the more it would jeopardize his case," said Emily Detoto, Landeros' attorney. "I've been in contact with him letting him know A) He has a lawyer and B)Hhe has the right to remain silent and he should probably use it.

After defacing the 1929 Picasso painting on June 13, Landeros vanished and remained silent until an exclusive interview with Local 2 in November.

The 22-year-old artist, who had been hiding out in northern Mexico, detailed his motivation behind the crime that rocked the Houston art community.

Landeros said he's not apologetic for spray painting a stenciled image of a bull, a matador, and the Spanish word "CONQUISTA," which means conquest, onto Picasso's "Woman in a Red Armchair."

"(Expletive) his painting. It's just a piece of cloth. What matters most is the people who are suffering," Landeros said.

Landeros said his actions were fueled by a mixture of social and political defiance.

"I'm part of the whole Occupy movement," Landeros explained.

Landeros said he chose the 13th of June because the number refers to a power structure. He said all he wanted to do was shed light on the corruption of banks, government and large institutions in the United States and Mexico.

"If I wanted to destroy that piece, I could have done it," he claimed. "The spray paint that I used was easily taken away. I really don't give a (expletive) about the 15 minutes of fame. If anything, I made that painting more famous than what it is."

The act was caught on cellphone video by a museum patron as it happened, then quickly posted on YouTube.

Detoto said she expected Landeros to be returned to Houston by Wednesday night and she hoped to get him before a judge this week.

If convicted, Landeros would face two to 10 years in prison.

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