Friday, July 05, 2013

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.”



Anonymous said...

A more realistic, and successful, action on the part of the bank would have been to sue him civilly for defamation.

The First Amendment (only) covers political speech.

Anonymous said...

Anion 1:40,

No, the First Amendment deals with government censorship of speech - not just political speech.

Anonymous said...

"Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech".

Anonymous said...

Who the hell would consider water-soluble sidewalk chalk to be any kind of vandalism? I suppose it would have been if he used it to scratch some message into the side of someone's car or something, but just scrawling some crap on the sidewalk with it? There's got to be some sort of "if you can hose it off with no lasting damage, it's not vandalism" precedent on the books somewhere.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:22, obviously, it depends on who the message is aimed at. If it were done in front of your house, i'm sure your suggestion would be the standard applied. But a mega-corp? Off with his head!

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:01

Yeah, this was a strange case and there appears to have been prosecutorial misconduct.

I could see a charge of vandalism or trespassing if the guy was writing messages on the bank's property, forcing them to clean it off.

However, the guy was writing on public sidewalks in front of the bank. That's got to be legal, especially if the chalk washes away.

It seems the D.A. went after this guy because of the bank - not because the guys actions were illegal.