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.”
Brent Beltran says
Goldsmith should be ashamed! Then thrown out of office.
Last thing first, BB – then he can nurse whatever (if any) shame he has, on his own nickel – not the public’s.
Power is like heroin to many politicians. It doesn’t take much to make you a worthless fool.
Wonderfully on the mark.
Andy Cohen says
This appears to be a case of Jan Goldsmith attempting to re-establish his authority in the face of the mean Mayor Filner. I usually try to give Goldsmith the benefit of the doubt (at least initially) until I just can’t anymore, which is usually. But I do want to be fair, as my interactions with him have been cordial, useful, and informative. He’s generally been pretty open, if not completely honest, with me.
This, however, is an entirely different story. This whole case was ridiculous on its face, and as Mayor Filner pointed out in last week’s “Pen and Paper” session with the local media, if this is how the City Attorney is spending his budgeted funds, perhaps he doesn’t need all that money in the first place. This whole case was a national embarrassment to San Diego, and was a perfect example of the system attempting to do the bidding of big business–in this case, the Big Banks.
Mayor Filner wins again!
Mr. Olson can now prepare his claim and suit against Bank of America, Goldsmith and the City of San Diego for money damages arising from their conspiracy to deny him his Forth and First Amendment rights.
Goldsmith did not even do preliminary legal research before filing this absurd criminal case.
The Ninth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals affirmed a chalk writer’s First Amendment rights to scrawl on a public sidewalk in this case. It also held the City [Berkeley in this case] could be liable for damages and attorney’s fees to the Defendant.
Doubtful if anyone in the City Attorney’s Office bothered doing any research on the issue: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-9th-circuit/1464004.html.
Goldsmith is the one that needs to be recalled, not Filner.
What a horse and pony show. He should to be ashamed of himself.
Andy Cohen says
Just a reminder: He ran unopposed last spring, and thus obviously won a second term. IOW, we didn’t have a choice in the matter.
Laura E. says
Thank you to the intelligent men and women on the jury who understood the case for what it was.
Tom Hunter says
Who says there’s never any good news anymore? My granddaughter loves that sidewalk chalk. Once again B of A has shamed the memory of their founder. The customer is always right, as long as they are millionaires.
I’m with you, Tom. My great-granddaughters are thrilled to know that they can decorate the sidewalk of Pt. Loma with the chalk I bought them and fear being thrown in jail.
still Recall Goldsmith!!
John P. Falchi says
I’ve heard of toadeying up to “The Man.” However this irresponsible act of Joel Goldsmith, San Diego City Attorney, takes the cake.
Andy Cohen says
Andy Cohen says
Statement from the City Attorney’s office RE: chalk-graffiti verdict:
“Today a San Diego Superior Court jury found Defendant Jeffrey Olson not guilty of thirteen counts of vandalism. We respect the jury’s verdict.
Our office receives about 20,000 criminal cases annually, referred to us by the San Diego Police Department (SDPD). This case was referred to our office by SDPD and was issued by prosecutors in the Neighborhood Prosecution Unit. That unit is charged with, among other things, working closely with SDPD’s Graffiti Strike Force.
Our prosecutors never treated this case as anything more than a graffiti case. As with most graffiti cases, Mr. Olson was offered reduction to an infraction after completing volunteer work service cleaning up graffiti. His refusal of that offer resulted in the trial and his successful defense.
Graffiti remains vandalism in the state of California. Penal Code section 594(a) prohibits maliciously defacing, damaging or destroying the property of another. Under the law, there is no First Amendment right to deface property, even if the writing is easily removed, whether the message is aimed at banks or any other person or group. We are, however, sympathetic to the strong public reaction to this case and the jury’s message.”
“Our prosecutors never treated this case as anything more than a graffiti case.”
And the City Attorney is fine with such stupidity?
bob dorn says
The Hairpiece had no choice. The SDPD asked him to prosecute. Not only that, the Hairpiece’s own Neighborhood Prosecution Unit issued the charges. What could he do? He could have elected not to prosecute; it happens all the time. And he can’t say (so defensively) his prosecutors “never treated this case as anything more than a graffiti case” without running the chance of losing his wig in the incoming gales of laughter; after all, how many taggers are confronted with a potential 13-year sentence?
This was one of those cases where judge and prosecutor have stained themselves, indelibly. To hell with ’em.
Doug Porter says
Latest Tally on Facebook ReCall pages:
ReCall City Attorney Jan Goldsmith: 240 Likes
ReCall Judge Howard Shore: 257 Likes
ReCall Mayor Bob Finer: 32 Likes (The Mayor had the guts to call this prosecution a waste of money & the wingers are supposedly gathering a mob.)
Andy Cohen says
While we’re at it, can we get a “Recall Judge Gary Kreep” page going? Dude never should have been elected in the first place…..
Frances O'Neill Zimmerman says
Andy, you are just amazing. But not as amazing as our City Attorney who, in your own words, has “generally been pretty open, if not completely honest,” with you. That makes him DIShonest, Andy — a bad thing in a any person, especially a public lawyer. Like, Goldsmith could have been characterized as a scheming tool in service to the downtown Establishment hell-bent on taking down our Mayor Bob Filner — up until this absolutely stunning misstep of carrying water for the Bank of America by prosecuting an Occupy protester who exercised his free speech rights by chalking his dissent on the public sidewalks in front of three B of A branches. This caper has made Goldsmith’s hair-piece look good. It will be impossible to live down.
Andy Cohen says
No, he was never DIShonest, he just didn’t tell the entire truth–his citing of the legalities of the TMD contract during that debacle was absolutely correct, if only in a very narrow legal interpretation. The letter of the law if not the spirit of the law. So he never lied.
Vox Populi says
If we continue to elect political hacks to offices that involve justice, we will continually find ourselves the victims of injustice.
Along with what Vox Populi just stated, we deserve the rascals we get, if we continue to reelect them. Remember the Chalk Trial come 2014, & let’s be rid of some of the worst judicial vermin around. (Let’s not forget to add devious Dumanis to that pile of moldy crooks.)