George Haag experienced butterflies in his tummy, extra like a performer in the wings than a defendant in a felony circumstance, as he waited to be called into Courtroom 401 at the Corridor of Justice in downtown Rochester just lately.
“I’m thrilled,” he explained. “I experience like I’m on a blind date.”
He experienced yet to fulfill his public defender in the flesh and experienced dressed up for the situation, wearing a brown sport coat more than a pink knitted vest and a novelty necktie emblazoned with cartoon breasts that he bought at the grownup retail outlet Demonstrate World in Henrietta.
“I’m a boob,” he discussed.
When the community defender arrived, he advised Haag to remove the necktie, declaring it was not ideal for his visual appeal just before Rochester Metropolis Courtroom Decide Nicole Morris. The matter at hand was no laughing matter, but Haag experienced ready for his little bit and wasn’t about to permit it go.
Haag, 37, an aspiring comedian with dreams of reopening the outdated Monroe Theatre as a comedy club, was charged with tried grand larceny in the 2nd diploma for allegedly making an attempt to steal an item from the Andy Warhol show at the Memorial Artwork Gallery back in January. The charge is a felony that carries a greatest penalty of 7 decades in prison.
The product in query was a portrait of Warhol shot by photographer Robert Mapplethorpe that is believed to be valued at $60,000.
When Morris termed his identify, Haag walked into the courtroom, pulled the necktie out from below his vest and apologized for staying overdressed. The decide, who both under no circumstances found the imprint on his tie or was indifferent to it, told Haag he looked fantastic and that they very best just get the clearly show on the road.
The demonstrate was to figure out no matter whether Haag would accept a plea offer from Monroe County prosecutors to move his case to mental health courtroom, a department of the justice method that provides non-violent offenders residing with psychological illness with procedure as an choice to trial and opportunity incarceration.
Absolutely everyone involved, it seemed, required Haag to acquire the offer — even the aggrieved Memorial Art Gallery.
“MAG has no interest in viewing Mr. Haag go to jail for this offense,” the museum’s director, Jonathan Binstock, stated after the proceeding. “We do hope that he avails himself of the diversion from the criminal justice system to mental wellness court that has been presented.”
Haag would probable qualify for psychological wellness court docket. In an interview in his Brighton apartment a pair months prior to his court overall look, he explained he has been approved medicine for a identified psychological disease. At the similar time, he stated that he disputed his diagnosis and stopped having medicine far more than a 12 months back.
He advised his law firm that he refused to go to psychological wellbeing court docket, reasoning that he couldn’t be trusted to make the required regime appearances to report on his progress.
Apart from, Haag insisted, he hardly ever tried out to steal the portrait. He stated he just wished to choose it up and that, when he did, he was impressed to transfer it.
“It’s humorous, I’ll be genuine,” he mentioned, “I did think about thieving it, but I resolved not to, which is suitable due to the fact it is an intent situation.
“So, I flipped a coin for the reason that I’m a comedian, it’s exciting,” he went on. “It came up tails and I produced tails, ‘I’ll decide on it up off the wall,’ then, what do you know?”
But why did he pick it up of the wall?
“To decide it up off the wall,” he claimed. “No, actually, just to come to feel what it felt like. Like, I have never accomplished that just before. Who doesn’t want to select up a piece of artwork off a wall of an art museum?”
Did he know he was not supposed to do that?
“No,” he replied.
Relevant: Person billed in alleged attempt to steal Warhol show art
In his apartment that day, Haag spoke at a immediate clip, like a quickly-chatting voiceover artist examining the lawful disclaimer in a radio advertisement. He snacked on pastrami he introduced house from the meat marketplace down the road, where by he does odd work a several several hours a week. The owner there reported he wanted to assist Haag make ends meet up with.
Haag grew up in Pittsford and gained bachelor’s levels in chemistry and biochemistry from Scenario Western Reserve College and graduate degrees in biochemistry and molecular biology from the College of California.
Though in Los Angeles, he said, he tried performing stand-up comedy and felt he was on to a little something. He put audiences in stitches, he reported, just like he recalled doing to the deputies at the Monroe County Jail when he was arrested, and in courtroom in the course of his arraignment in February.
“Why don’t ants get the COVID-19?” was how he said he established up one of his most effective jokes for the officers. The punchline: “They received small antibodies.”
“I’m joking all over with these guys and all the cops at the rear of me are sniggering due to the fact I’m possessing fun with this,” Haag recalled of his arraignment.
Following his foray into stand-up on the West Coast, Haag returned to New York and taught for a while at schools in Rochester and in the North Nation, but he said he was not able to keep on to these employment.
In current a long time, Haag reported, he’s been dividing his time concerning the meat market place, accomplishing stand-up at open up mics, operating on obtaining his comedy club enterprise off the floor, and attending periods at Sturdy Ties Neighborhood Help Clinic, an outpatient clinic of the University of Rochester Health care Heart for grown ups with critical and persistent psychological ailment.
When Haag walked into the Memorial Art Gallery on Jan. 31, the working day of the alleged attempted theft, he was not a stranger to the place.
A handful of a long time earlier, Haag was integral to a celebrated film installation at the museum by the artist Javier Téllez that targeted on cinema and psychological ailment. Haag and other people residing with psychological sickness in the Rochester region collaborated with Téllez as a result of a series of workshops, serving to him produce the script and starring in the movie.
When the instillation opened, the museum threw a get together for the individuals that Haag attended. The film, “Nosferatu (The Undead),” has considering that been screened all around the earth.
Haag stated he by no means paid to enter the museum the working day he took the Mapplethorpe portrait of Warhol off the wall.
“I had this outstanding artistic second, the place I have no idea what I’m heading to do,” Haag explained. “It was excellent. I’m sitting down here with Warhol in my arms. So I walk throughout the room.”
He estimated that he was about 100 toes away from the nearest exit when he entered a component of the exhibit fashioned like a living room that performed Warhol tv appearances.
“I see this Andy Warhol Television set room and I’m contemplating, that is so perfect,” he claimed. “Just then, a docent walks by me and I held the image up to him and claimed, ‘Hey glimpse, a Mapplethorpe!’ . . . So I place it down on the ground in the frame leaned up from the Andy Warhol Television set place.”
He claimed he then walked to the key entrance of the museum, informed an additional official that he imagined the Mapplethorpe portrait seemed improved on the flooring, and walked out.
“I wasn’t managing,” he claimed. “I just walked out when I was accomplished. . . . Took them a 7 days and a 50 % to uncover me.”
The Memorial Artwork Gallery introduced a assertion on Feb. 10 asserting that a particular person experienced been arrested and billed in connection with an attempt to steal a function of artwork. The statement advised that the would-be thief only got a couple of measures prior to he encountered a museum safety ambassador, who secured the artwork and alerted police.
Haag told law enforcement in a assertion that he “just needed to make folks laugh” and that he believed “Warhol would glimpse improved someplace else.”
In court docket, just after apologizing for getting overdressed, Haag complained of remaining sizzling and took off his sport coat and vest to expose a hand-composed advertisement for his comedy club strategy on a piece of paper taped to his again.
The judge told Haag to place his jacket again on. He complied, but not prior to he tugged his necktie cost-free and tossed it into the air. After that, the judge instructed she would shut down the exhibit right until Haag could get his act collectively.
Then, the general public defender interjected.
“We won’t be in a position to resolve this subject currently,” he explained, describing that Haag did not want to go to mental well being court docket and that he was geared up for his case to go right before a grand jury and, from there, maybe to trial.
The decide agreed and adjourned the matter.
Haag picked up his tie off the courtroom ground, gathered a handful of stray things he experienced remaining in the gallery, and exited declaring, “That’s a present.”
David Andreatta is CITY’s editor. He can be attained at [email protected]