Published November 08, 2010
NEW YORK – Noted tattoo artist Jonathan Shaw cultivates an outlaw image, and now prosecutors say it's for real: He was charged Monday with stashing a horde of guns, knives and ammunition in a storage locker.
Shaw, a son of the late jazz giant Artie Shaw, was trying to ship a loaded AK-47 assault rifle, three other firearms, 96 knives and more than 2,800 rounds of ammunition to his Los Angeles home when a mover called authorities, prosecutors said. He was charged under state laws that require permits for certain guns and generally bar people from having loaded guns outside their homes or workplaces, among other restrictions.
Defense lawyer Brian T. Pakett said Shaw has receipts to show all the weapons were bought legally 15 or more years ago, and the artist had "no intent to use" them.
"We are confident this case will be cleared up," Pakett said. "Mr. Shaw is a very peaceful man. He's a very caring man."
A self-described "world-traveling outlaw artist," Shaw, 57, was a figure for years in what was then a semi-underground New York tattoo scene. Tattoo parlors were illegal in the city for more than 30 years until the ban was lifted in 1997. In the meantime, Shaw made a name for himself and his Fun City tattoo shop, in Manhattan's bohemian East Village.
He became known for popularizing tattoos based on tribal symbols and developed a celebrity following. His 2008 novel, "Narcisa: Our Lady of Ashes," boasts blurbs from Johnny Depp, Marilyn Manson and Blondie singer Deborah Harry, among others. Punk-rock icon Iggy Pop called him "the great nightmare anti-hero of the new age."
Shaw has retired from tattooing, according to his website, ScabVendor.com.
He has said he was estranged for most of his life from his bandleader father, who epitomized the Big Band era with such hits as "Begin the Beguine" and "Stardust." Artie Shaw died in 2004; Jonathan Shaw's mother, "The Lost Weekend" actress Doris Dowling, also died that year.
A worker with moving company First Global Xpress spotted boxes of ammunition when one of Jonathan Shaw's suitcases fell open Saturday as it was being moved for shipping from a Manhattan storage unit, and then the worker opened a blanket-wrapped bundle and duffel bag to find firearms, according to a court complaint.
First Global President Justin Brown said the New York-based company, which isn't authorized to ship firearms and has workers trained to watch out for possible security risks, quickly alerted authorities.
Police ultimately found a collection of weapons that included a 12-gauge shotgun, a loaded .30-caliber rifle, a loaded British military rifle and eight expandable batons, among other items, the complaint said.
Shaw unsuccessfully applied for a New York firearms license in 1990, Manhattan assistant district attorney Christopher Prevost said.
Pakett declined to discuss why Shaw had the weapons, but the lawyer said Shaw had let workers know Saturday what was in the storage unit. Officials with the storage company, Manhattan Mini Storage, declined to comment.
Shaw was in town to attend a friend's art show, Pakett said. The artist was released later Thursday on $250,000 bond.
Shaw's arrest record also includes a small-scale theft conviction in California, prosecutors said. Pakett said that incident happened more than 16 years ago.
The top charge in the weapons case carries a potential sentence of up to 15 years in prison.