‘Gerko’ grafitti vandal sentenced

MARQUETTE – Alex John Watanen, 26, of Marquette was sentenced Monday after pleading guilty to misdemeanor charges of malicious destruction of property under $200 and malicious destruction of a building less than $200.

Watanen was sentenced to 93 days in jail, which is deferred toward his 12 months of probation, and fines and court costs totaling $1,355. He was arrested on July 22 after a witness called police regarding a subject who was writing on a dumpster near the 500 block of Hawley Street.

Police said Watanen ran when officers arrived, and was eventually detained. Police said the investigation found that Watanen had written the word “Gerko” on a dumpster and street sign along Hawley Street.

The same tag was noted in dozens of reports of vandalism across the city of Marquette, and officers added that the Gerko tag has been seen in hundreds of other locations that weren’t reported. In addition to his charges, the judge also held Watanen responsible for the clean-up involved with the tags.

He will also have to pay for an ad in the newspaper that contains his probation officer’s contact information so that any additional tags can be reported and cleaned up.

“I don’t want people to think I’m of the impression that this is OK,” Watanen said. “I am very concerned and very repentant.”

In exchange for Watanen’s plea, the two-year felony charge of assaulting, resisting or obstructing a police officer was dropped.

Justin Marietti can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 245.