Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Chalk it up to stupidity

Activist who chalked anti-bank slogans on San Diego sidewalks found not guilty on all charges
Jeff Olson, 40, was charged with scrawling messages with water-soluble chalk on city sidewalks outside Bank of America branches from April to August 2012, including "Shame on B of A," ''No thanks, big banks," and a drawing of an octopus reaching for dollar bills.

"Graffiti remains vandalism in the state of California," the city attorney's office said. "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."

The city's own mayor said the case was "stupid". "The case pitted Mayor Bob Filner against City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, who prosecuted the case, and could have sent Olsen to jail for 13 years — one year for each misdemeanor count — and brought a $13,000 fine. The city attorney's office said it offered to reduce the charges to an infraction if Olson agreed to perform community service by cleaning up graffiti but he refused.

Filner called it a "nonsense prosecution" that responded to complaints from Bank of America. "It's washable chalk, it's political slogans," Filner said last week. "We're not even responding to the public's complaint ... I think it's a stupid case. It's costing us money."

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