Sidewalk Chalk “Vandal” Acquitted By Jury
On Saturday I noted that a man who had written protests messages in sidewalk chalk outside a number of Bank of America branches faced up to a decade in prison for his actions. Thanks to a jury, though, that won’t be happening:
SAN DIEGO – A 40-year-old man was acquitted Monday of 13 misdemeanor vandalism charges that stemmed from protest messages written in chalk in front of three Bank of America branches in San Diego.
Jeffrey David Olson’s attorney argued during the trial — which garnered national attention — that his client was engaging in a legal protest and was not maliciously defacing of property.
Olson could have faced up to 13 years behind bars if convicted of all counts. Jurors began deliberating Friday.
Defense attorney Tom Tosdal argued that vandalism law required jurors to find something was “maliciously defaced.”
“His purpose was not malicious. His purpose was to inform,” Tosdal said of his client.
Olson did not deny 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.”
The prosecution of Olson brought condemnation of the City Attorney’s Office from Mayor Bob Filner, who called it a waste of time.
Tosdal said it was an “enormous waste of public resources.” He said bank officials demanded the prosecution because they didn’t like his client’s message.
And that, apparently, is what the jury ended up finding. All in all, a sensible vindication of the practice of trial by jury.