DA throws book at South Bay taggers

A bold group of graffiti slingers are paying the price for years of allegedly spraying their artwork all over public and private property in the South Bay.

Santa Clara District Attorney has decided to go all gangland on group of accused vandals known as “HYSU?,” or, “Have You Seen Us?” The DA’s office has souped up charges against members of the nonviolent group with a gang enhancement that result in up to 11 years behind bars.

The HYSU crew has lit up freeways, buildings and other structures across Santa Clara County for years.

Their colorful, artistic “pieces” — short for masterpieces — can exhibit genuine artistic skill and prowess. Their “throw-ups” — crude, rushed, and blocky — often do little more than litter the urban landscape.

Members of the HYSU crew were picked up during a major bust last December. San Jose police estimated the crew was responsible for about half of the graffiti splashed across San Jose.

Criminal gang enhancement can be stacked on top of other charges when any group of three or more people commit certain crimes. It is rarely used for non-violent crimes, though its use is not unprecedented for street graffiti.

The crew didn’t exactly score any sympathy points with prosecutors leading up to the arrests. The Merc reports one veteran member wrote in an online interview before the 2011 bust:

“I’m going to be doing what I’m doing until God himself comes for me. As for now, I’m going to rape this city.”

That statement — and years of accused property damage — led to a 51-count indictment by a Santa Clara grand jury.

A deal for a plea bargain will be heard in court Tuesday morning. Crew members are expected to receive county jail sentences between six and eight months, plus restitution and five years of probation.

If they violate probation — including hanging out with each other — HYSU members could face prison terms of up to 11 years and eight months.