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Charge dropped against artist who wrote on art-banana wall

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Charges were dropped Thursday against an artist who scrawled a blood-red message about sex offender Jeffrey Epstein on a white wall where an artist had previously duct-taped a controversial piece of art consisting of a ripe banana.

As artist Rod Webber walked out of a Miami courthouse, he took a large bite out of a banana, peel and all, and declared victory.

“Art has prevailed. We're out of court. Case has been dismissed," Webber posted in a video on Instagram, referring to the criminal mischief charge.

During Miami's Art Basel fair in December, a piece by Maurizio Cattelan titled Comedian garnered international attention. The artist made three editions of spotty bananas duct taped to a wall, which sold in the $120,000-$150,000 range, according to the Perrotin gallery.

The artwork was widely parodied on social media. Kelly Ripa and Ryan Seacrest framed a bagel with a piece of duct tape over it, and Brooke Shields taped a banana to her forehead, writing "An expensive selfie” on Instagram.

At one point, another artist, David Datuna, removed the banana from the wall, unpeeled it and took a bite as a large crowd documented it with their phones.

And later, Webber approached the wall wearing bright red lipstick and a black hat and used his fingers to scrawl in red lipstick, “Epstien didn't kill himself," referring to convicted sexual predator Jeff Epstein, who was found dead in prison. The misspelling is on purpose.

Webber also created T-shirts with the same message, which he wore at court on Thursday, along with a black ‘X' on his cheek.

“They had nothing because I did nothing wrong ... unlike Mr. Epstein," he posted, saying prosecutors would have to prove malice or ill intent. He said he was just creating more art.

The state attorney's office did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

A New York medical examiner ruled Epstein’s death a suicide, but conspiracy theories have flourished.

Kelli Kennedy, The Associated Press

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