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'Hollyweed' sign prankster arrested

Police have the suspected perpetrator who altered the "Hollywood' sign to read "Hollyweed." Zachary Cole Fernandez has said he wanted to prompt a conversation after California voted to legalize recreational marijuana.

Los Angeles police on Monday arrested the suspected perpetrator behind the New Year's Day prank in which the famous "Hollywood" sign was changed to read "Hollyweed."

Artist Zachary Cole Fernandez, 30, was booked on suspicion of misdemeanor trespassing after he voluntarily surrendered to the authorities while accompanied by his attorney. He was spared a vandalism charge because he did not damage the sign, police said.

Police said that Fernandez was released on his own recognizance and must return before a court on February 15.

Fernandez, who goes by the moniker "Jesus Hands," had already claimed credit for the stunt in an interview with online magazine "Vice," although police had not confirmed his involvement until Monday.

Copycat caper

He told Vice that he and his partner had conducted research on how to scale the sign and place tarps over the 45-foot-high O's, turning them into e's.

Fernandez also revealed that the stunt was inspired by a similar incident perpetrated by art student Daniel Finegood in 1976 to mark a relaxation of penalties in California's marijuana laws.

 

Fernandez said his aim was to "bring positivity into the world" and stir debate about cannabis after California voters had recently approved a measure legalizing recreational marijuana use in the state.

Not everyone's giggling

However, one person who did not see it that way was Los Angeles councilman David Ryu, who said he would push for Fernandez to be prosecuted to the fullest.

"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."

He also added that "while the Hollywood Sign is an internationally recognized icon, it is located in a large urban wilderness park next to thousands of residential homes."

The sign was erected in 1923 and originally said "Hollywoodland." Overlooking Griffith Park, the white letters were installed to advertise a new housing development in the hills above Los Angeles.

It is not first time California's sign has been transformed over the years. In 1987, one prankster changed it to read "Holywood" to mark the visit of Pope John Paul II.

dm/msh (AP, AFP)