He Created A (Barrel) Monster ... And May Go To Jail University student Joseph Carnevale built a 10-foot roadside monster out of stolen orange-and-white safety barrels in Raleigh, N.C. Already on probation, Carnevale could go to jail for the art. But hundreds of people have lobbied the city to drop the charges against him.
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He Created A (Barrel) Monster ... And May Go To Jail

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He Created A (Barrel) Monster ... And May Go To Jail

He Created A (Barrel) Monster ... And May Go To Jail

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One man's vandalism is another man's art. That pretty much sums up the situation in Raleigh, North Carolina, where a college student named Joseph Carnevale stole some of those orange and white safety barrels you see at construction sites and then turned them into a 10-foot, roadside monster.

Now, as monsters go, he's a friendly-looking chap. A jagged smile was carved into the barrel that serves as a cone-shaped head. He's leaning in toward the road with one orange and white arm raised and he appears to be hitching a ride.

Well, the police weren't laughing: They arrested Carnevale and took the barrel monster apart. But hundreds of people wrote to the city to say they kind of liked the monster, and they lobby the city to drop the charges against Carnevale.

And Mr. Carnevale joins us now. Welcome to the program.

Mr. JOSEPH CARNEVALE (Student, North Carolina State University): Thanks.

NORRIS: So where do things stand? Are you still facing charges?

Mr. CARNEVALE: Yes, I am. I have an initial hearing set for July 21st.

NORRIS: What exactly are you charged with?

Mr. CARNEVALE: Misdemeanor larceny and misdemeanor injury to personal property.

NORRIS: And when you did this, you knew that you were using someone else's construction barrels.


NORRIS: And that didn't give you pause at all?

Mr. CARNEVALE: Not really, because at the time, I didn't realize how expensive they were to the company.

NORRIS: How expensive are they?

Mr. CARNEVALE: Apparently, $120 a piece.

NORRIS: Mm-hmm. Have you been in contact with the company? What do they have to say about this?

Mr. CARNEVALE: Yes, I have. They said they are not, nor were they ever, interested in pursuing charges, and they'd like the sculpture back from the police department to use for advertising purposes.

NORRIS: Did you stand by the creature and watch people's reactions as they drove by?

Mr. CARNEVALE: Yeah, actually I did. I sat - after I went home and changed so I didn't look like the same guy who had put the barrel up — I came back and sat in my car, and it was funny. People were stopping in traffic and taking pictures with their cell phones and their cameras, and it was pretty funny in the few hours that it actually stayed up.

NORRIS: And what inspired you to have his thumb out in the air?

Mr. CARNEVALE: Well, I don't know. I was sitting there thinking about it, after most of it was finished, to see what I was going to do with his hand. I was kind of on the brink between thumbs out or middle finger out, and I decided thumbs out would probably offend less people.

NORRIS: Good move.

Mr. CARNEVALE: Thanks.

NORRIS: What kind of penalty are you facing?

Mr. CARNEVALE: For the charges themselves, it's not very high. The problem is I had been on probation, so I'm looking at a violation of probation, which will carry a minimum of a six-month jail sentence.

NORRIS: Probation for what?

Mr. CARNEVALE: It was another theft charge.

NORRIS: Will you care to tell me a little bit more about what happened in that case?

Mr. CARNEVALE: Well, I had been kayaking around on this lake and was very intoxicated and decided I didn't want to paddle anymore. So I hopped in a boat that had the keys in it and drove around for a little while and then put it back in the dock that was not the dock I had found it at.

NORRIS: Well, Mr. Carnevale, you have an interesting story to tell when you stand before that judge or that magistrate, and he or she asks you, what do you think would be the appropriate way to handle this case, what would you say?

Mr. CARNEVALE: I don't really know. I mean, it's his decision. I don't think I need to go to jail for six months, but I don't know. If they want me to do a thousand hours of community service or pay the company back, even though the company doesn't want to be paid back, I don't know.

NORRIS: Joseph Carnevale, thanks for speaking with us.

Mr. CARNEVALE: No problem.

NORRIS: Joseph Carnevale is a history major at N.C. State. We were speaking to him about the 10-foot, hitchhiking sculpture he created out of stolen construction barrels. At npr.org, you can see a picture of the barrel monster in all of its orange glory.

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