Just minutes ago, a jury reached its verdict in San Diego’s infamous Chalk case: Not guilty of all counts!
Jeff Olson, accused of 13 counts of vandalism for drawing messages about Bank of America with water-soluble chalk , is free to go.
Olson had been brought to trial by San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith. Judge Herbert Shore – the trial judge – had issued a gag order for all parties and witnesses, which is unheard of for a misdemeanor case. Judge Shore had also ruled that Olson could not raise First Amendment issues during the showdown in court.
This was the case that had drawn national attention, where Mayor Bob Filner had stated to the media on Friday, June28, that he believed 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. It’s water-soluble chalk. They were political slogans.”
Goldsmith had prosecuted Olson for graffiti vandalism and had said that Courts have held that graffiti remains illegal even if it can be easily washed off. Goldsmith said:
“We prosecute vandalism and theft cases regardless of who the perpetrator or victim might be. We don’t decide, for example, based upon whether we like or dislike banks. That would be wrong under the law.”
Goldsmith denied that there was any First Amendment issues in the case, as it “is a graffiti case and nothing more.”
This was the case during which the Bank of America had contacted the city attorney’s office to reportedly urge prosecution.
One message in chalk said: “No thanks, big banks.” Another, “Shame on Bank of America.”