The man who vandalised a mural of George Michael with black paint in the Sydney suburb of Erskineville has been found guilty of malicious damage.
Ben Gittany was caught on video saying “I’m defending my religion” as he damaged the seven-metre tall artwork last November, just days after the result of the marriage postal survey was announced.
The mural depicted the late singer as a saint with a halo, holding a cannabis joint in one hand and a “popper” in the other.
Gittany told the court he was Catholic and believed the work was “offensive to me because it was a mural of Jesus holding drugs in full view of everyone,” the Daily Telegraph reported.
In Newtown Local Court on Friday, Magistrate Carolyn Huntsman found Gittany’s religious beliefs did not constitute a “reasonable excuse” for his offence.
“We are not a society that allows people to take the law into their own hands to assert their different point of view,” she said.
“We are a pluralist society.
“Everybody’s different — you’ve heard them in court, what they had to say about George Michael and how the community felt about that mural.
“No matter what your beliefs, you damaged something that was dear to someone else.”
After Friday’s judgment, supporters of Gittany took to social media – the “Christian Lives Matter” Facebook page in particular – to threaten the magistrate and threaten to “burn down the courthouse”.
A NSW Police spokesperson told the Daily Telegraph, “We can confirm officers from the Inner West Local Area Command are aware of the posts and are investigating.”
Sydney street artist Scott Marsh was commissioned by the owners of the property to create the artwork two weeks after the singer, who the owners knew, died in December 2016.
The mural was targeted several times with graffiti and eggs during the marriage law postal survey last year.
In response to Gittany’s vandalism, locals covered the coat of black paint with pro-equality messages such as “Too Late, Love Won” and “Love Conquers All”.
Gittany is due to be sentenced in September.
— Pauline Pantsdown (@PPantsdown) July 27, 2018