LOS ANGELES A Los Angeles businessman who was arrested and faces charges for draping a building with a massive movie billboard near the site of the upcoming Academy Awards ceremony agreed to remove the sign yesterday in exchange for a drastic reduction of his bail.
Superior Court Judge Mildred Escobedo accepted the deal between Kayvan Setareh's lawyers and the city attorney's office, which dropped his bail from $1 million to $100,000 after Setareh agreed to have a crew begin removing the eight-story ad last night.
Setareh, 49, attended the hearing in an enclosed pen reserved for defendants in custody, standing silently behind the glass wearing glasses and unkempt longish hair. His attorney, Andrew Stein, said he was expected to post bail later in the day.
Setareh is the first person to face criminal charges under a new citywide ban on enormous building-cloaking ads known as supergraphics, part of what authorities called a new strategy of vigorous sign-law enforcement by the city attorney's office.
Setareh’s arrest came less than a week after the office filed its first civil complaint under the ban, against a business accused of installing supergraphic signs at 12 Los Angeles locations.
Stein said he did not believe the sign was a safety hazard, as prosecutors alleged. He said the city had aggressively gone after his client as a warning to other would-be supergraphic scofflaws.
"He feels like he's the unlucky guy who put up the wrong sign at the wrong time," Stein said after the hearing.
Setareh is due back in court March 30.
Authorities said Setareh arranged for the ad for DreamWorks Animation LLC's upcoming movie "How to Train Your Dragon" to be hung on a Hollywood Boulevard building he owns near the Kodak Theatre, the site of the March 7 Oscars.
Setareh was accused of posting the unpermitted sign despite repeated warnings that it would violate city safety codes and the ban passed last year by the City Council on supergraphics.
"This was an individual who was warned and had every opportunity to comply with the law and did not," said Senior Assistant City Attorney Chuck Goldenberg.
Stein said he had seen no evidence that his client had received a warning. He assailed Escobedo for approving the $1 million bail that prosecutors requested when Setareh was arrested on Feb. 26 on suspicion of three misdemeanor city code violations.
Endorsing a bail amount usually reserved for more serious offenses such as rape and kidnapping is the "most outrageous abuse of discretion that I've seen by any judicial officer," he said.
Setareh's deal with prosecutors stipulates that he must have the sign removed by 6 a.m. tomorrow.
DreamWorks Animation referred questions to Paramount Pictures, which was handling marketing for "How to Train Your Dragon." Paramount said in a statement that it had been assured that the site had all appropriate permits.
A spokeswoman did not respond to an e-mail seeking details about the advertising contract and asking whether the sign was supposed to have remained through the Oscars broadcast, where it could have been visible to TV cameras covering the event.