REDONDO BEACH, CA — A West Hollywood artist who admitted to vandalizing a Torrance Chick-fil-A restaurant just outside the Redondo Beach border with the words "Tastes Like Hate" in protest of the company president's comments against same-sex marriage pleaded no contest Friday to a misdemeanor vandalism charge.
As part of the plea, Manual "Manny" Castro Jr. was sentenced to three years' probation.
Castro, 31, was also barred from possessing any paint, paint brushes, spray paint, aerosol cans or vandalism tools outside his home, according to Torrance Assistant City Attorney Patrick Sullivan. Castro must perform 200 hours of community service, pay $400 in fines plus penalties and a $419 booking fee.
He also must stay away from all Chick-fil-A restaurants while on probation, Sullivan said.
In exchange for Castro's no-contest plea, a misdemeanor charge of possession of vandalism tools was dismissed. Castro was not in court for the hearing, and the plea was entered on his behalf by his attorney.
A restitution hearing was set for Jan. 9, Sullivan said.
Castro painted the words "Tastes Like Hate" with the stenciled image of a cow holding a paint brush—a play on the restaurant chain's advertisements depicting cows encouraging people to eat more chicken—on an exterior wall of the restaurant at 18200 Hawthorne Blvd. in the early morning hours of Aug. 3.
Castro was arrested Aug. 8 after giving a statement to the Huffington Post claiming responsibility for the vandalism. Police were first tipped off to the vandalism—and Castro's subsequent confession—by local media organizations.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office declined to file felony charges at the end of August. John Zajec, the head prosecutor in the Torrance DA's office, said it cost the restaurant's owner "approximately several hundred dollars" to have the affected portion of the wall painted over.
"The amount of the damages appears to be relatively minor involving repainting a section of stucco wall approximately 15 feet long by 12 feet high," Zajec wrote in a charge worksheet. "The suspect has acknowledged his wrongdoing and offered to make restitution."
Perhaps in response to people calling the vandalism a "hate crime," Zajec noted that "the record does not establish the suspect was motivated by religious hatred."
Castro, who is gay, told the Huffington Post in a second interview that his intent was not to commit a crime.
"It's paint on a wall," he said. "It got removed in less than an hour. It's not that much of a crime—it's a protest."
The DA's office also noted that an unidentified second person may have been involved in the vandalism.
—City News Service contributed to this report.
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