Crime & Justice

Man who says he carried out 'Hollyweed' stunt surrenders, gets court date

File: The famous Hollywood sign reads
File: The famous Hollywood sign reads "Hollyweed" after it was vandalized, January 1, 2017.
AFP/AFP/Getty Images

A man who claims to have clamped tarps over two letters of the Hollywood sign on New Year’s Day, making it read “HOLLYWeeD,” on Monday turned himself in to Los Angeles police, who arrested and booked him on a misdemeanor trespassing charge before releasing him on his own recognizance.

Zachary Cole Fernandez, 30, appeared voluntarily, accompanied by his attorney, at the LAPD's Hollywood station after a week-long investigation into the incident, according to a police statement.

Fernandez is scheduled to be formally charged in a court hearing on Feb. 15, should the City Attorney's office decide to prosecute.

Fernandez told the Vice website in an interview posted Jan. 4 that he and his creative partner, Sarah Fern, collaborated on the project after seeing an online photo of an artist's alteration of the Hollywood sign in the 1970s. In the early morning hours of New Year's Day, he climbed the sign wearing a camouflage rain jacket and clamped four tarps to the sign, he said in the interview.

Fernandez said his goal was to find a way to steer people away from negativity and focus on staying youthful.

“I think this project really allowed me to express that,” Fernandez said in the Vice interview. “Sometimes in order to create that conversation, you have to be OK with the consequences.”

Los Angeles City Councilman David Ryu, whose district includes the sign, issued a statement on Monday urging the City Attorney to prosecute the case.

“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,” Ryu said in a statement.

The sign was not damaged during the incident, and Fernandez's tarps were taken down later on New Year's Day morning.

Twenty-five security cameras line the various pathways up to the sign, and eight more survey a nearby parking lot, Chris Baumgart, chairman of the Hollywood Sign Trust, told KPCC. 

"How did the person slip through?" he said, ticking off some of the questions investigators were asking. "Was it just a matter of whether it was foggy or rainy and the cameras didn't see? Or was there some other issue?"

Baumgart said once the trust evaluates the video footage and sees how Fernandez got past the existing security, determinations will be made on whether to update the system.