SAN DIEGO – A gay man from North Park facing 13 years in jail and a hefty fine for his chalk-protest of big banks, has been found not guilty on all charges, according to an eyewitness at the trial.
Jeff Olson [SEEN AT THE LEFT], 40, breathed a big sigh of relief after the San Diego Superior Court jury rendered its verdict after deliberating about three hours. The jury exited without making a statement to the media, according to eyewitness JP Conly.
The case brought intensive negative coverage nationwide from people who were outraged that the San Diego City Attorney’s Office charged Olson with 13 counts of vandalism for using children’s chalk, which can easily be washed off, to protest the practices of big banks.
Critics included U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who tweeted about the case last week.
Judge Howard Shore also was criticized for denying Olson’s attorney from discussing during the trial such issues as First Amendment, free speech, free expression, public forum, expressive conduct or political speech.
Olson could have faced $13,000 in fines in addition to jail time.
City Attorney Jan Goldsmith approved the prosecution of Olson, who used water-soluble chalk on the sidewalk outside three Bank of America branches in San Diego to express his view that people should support their local credit unions instead of big banks. The protest began in October 2011, about the time that Occupy Wall Street protests peaked across the U.S.
Olson was defended pro-bono by attorney Tom Tosdal.
Jeff Olson is interviewed by TV reporters today while his partner Stephen Daniels watches on the far right. Photo taken by JP Conly.