By Doug Porter
The case City Attorney Jan Goldsmith’s office made against Jeff Olson for writing protest slogans in chalk outside Bank of America branches failed to impress a jury. He was found not guilty on all 13 charges.
This verdict follows a trial strategy pursued by the City Attorney’s office that included suppression of the defendant’s attorney mentioning any connections with the First Amendment during the trial.
The case, the prosecution said, was purely about acts of vandalism.
Olson was charged with 13 misdemeanor counts after Bank of America security officials pressured the San Diego Police Department’s Gang Unit into asking to the City Attorney’s office to prosecute. His arrest came months after the last incident occurred.
Starting with Dorian Hargrove’s account in the San Diego Reader, news organizations worldwide have covered this story.
As Mayor Bob Filner said (via the LA Times account):
Mayor Bob Filner on Friday told reporters that the city attorney’s prosecution of a protester for chalking anti-bank slogans on city sidewalks outside Bank of America branches is “a stupid case” and a waste of city money.
“It’s chalk,” Filner said in an exasperated tone. “It’s water-soluble chalk. They were political slogans.”
From Channel 10News:
Before the case went to jurors Friday, defense attorney Tom Tosdal said vandalism law requires that jurors find something was “maliciously defaced.”
“His purpose was not malicious. His purpose was to inform,” Tosdal said of his client.
Olson has not denied that he scrawled anti-bank messages and artwork outside the banks last year. His messages included “No thanks, big banks” and “Shame on Bank of America.”