Jeff Olson, the San Diego man who was charged with 13 counts of vandalism for writing anti-bank slogans near Bank of America branches, was acquitted on all charges yesterday.
Last month, Olson was arrested and charged by the City of San Diego for allegedly graffiti vandalizing Bank of America properties with children’s sidewalk chalk, causing a huge discrepancy that had many questioning the solidity of the charges. The discrepancy was further fueled by the potentially severe punishment as he was facing up to 13 years in prison should he have been found guilty and given the maximum sentence.
Before the trial, the presiding judge threw out invocation of the first amendment in court, which many thought Olson was able to use as his defense. San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith sought after an aggressive prosecution but the defense was able to convince the jury of Olson’s innocence, despite having the first amendment defense struck down. However, San Diego’s Mayor Bob Filner, in a memo to Goldsmith, said this situation was “an abuse of power that infringes on [the] first amendment.” In the end, the overall silliness of the charges was enough to get Olson acquitted.
Filner thought the case as “stupid” and a “waste of money.” A former civil rights activist in the 1960s, Filner sympathized with Olson’s anti-corporate stance and also commented on the ridiculousness of the charges against Olson.
“It’s water-soluble chalk,” said Filner. “They were political slogans. This is a nonsense prosecution and I will continue to say that.”
Joshua de Leon is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire.