Martinsburg artist fighting littering charge in toilet incident

May 02, 2012|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD |
  • A toilet with the words, "Put Art in Martinsburg" was placed on a pedestal in Martinsburg, W.Va.'s city square Wednesday morning. It was taken down about 30 minutes later.
Photo by Matthew Umstead

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — An artist charged with littering after he placed a toilet on the pedestal in Martinsburg’s town square on April 18 has retained an attorney to apparently fight the citation.

David Heatwole, 42, of Martinsburg, faces a maximum fine of $500 for violating the city ordinance titled “Littering and Deposit of Garbage, Rubbish, Junk, Etc,” according to city code.

Attorney Stephen Skinner said he requested a hearing regarding the citation in a municipal court appearance Wednesday.

A hearing was scheduled in July, Skinner said. By requesting the hearing, Skinner said it was “implicit” that his client did not plead guilty to littering charge.

Heatwole was not asked to enter a plea, Skinner said.

Heatwole put the toilet on the pedestal about 8:30 a.m. with the lid up. On the lid, he wrote “Put art in Martinsburg.” Three helium-filled purple balloons were tied to the flush handle, and a bill of sale for a “crappy work of art” was dangling from the toilet bowl.


The display lasted for about 20 minutes before three city workers removed it.

Heatwole said he would have returned to retrieve the toilet had someone called him to pick it up.

The pedestal in the square was built last year for a sculpture of Martinsburg’s founder, Revolutionary War Major Gen. Adam Stephen, but city officials since have tabled the project, citing cost and other concerns.

Heatwole had said the stunt was part of his effort to show the community and city leaders “how the arts can make Martinsburg a greater place to live, work and visit” and has proposed alternatives to placing the statute in the square.

Heatwole declined to comment about the pending case, deferring to Skinner.

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