Courtroom Antics From One of Miami's Strangest

Categories: Flotsam
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 running for US President to hanging four-foot penis 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
Hollywood script than public record. (His former 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 slander."

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, Vaca says.

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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