All Charges Dropped: Drone Artist Essam Is a Free Man

March 6, 2014 | Andy Cush

Last we heard from Essam Attia, the artist who gained notoriety for placing forged posters advertising a fictional NYPD drone campaign around New York, he had been arrested and was facing a litany of felonies for his exploits, so we threw a party to raise money for his defense. At a court appearance Monday, he learned all charges against him had been dismissed.

“I’m doing pretty spectacular,” Essam told ANIMAL in a phone conversation Wednesday night. “It was actually a surprise to my attorney and I both. We were sort of expecting it to be prolonged again, adjourned again, or the judge would be kind of a hardass and would want to send it to trial.”

Initially, Essam faced five charges, three of which were felonies. He estimates that if convicted on all of them, a worst-case scenario would land him in jail. In November, however, all of the felony charges — including one apparently trumped-up count of possession of stolen property for an antique firearm that Essam says belonged to his great-grandfather — were either dropped or reduced to misdemeanors. “It seemed to me like it was just made up,” he says of the stolen gun charge.

Though the arrest happened over a year ago, Essam’s case hadn’t yet seen trial when it was dismissed this week. The mysterious “drone artist” story attracted significant attention in late 2012, and according to the street artist, his attorney deliberately prolonged court proceedings to “let the media hype cool down,” and “for people to forget about it” before the state made any decisions.

The strategy apparently worked. “The assistant district attorney, I guess, had bigger fish to fry,” Essam says. “It was old enough news that it didn’t matter anymore.”

As for whether he’ll use his newfound liberty to continue making art, Essam says, “I think I’ll leave that to be seen.”

(Top photo: Aymann Ismail/ANIMALNewYork, inline photo: @Jayshells)