Man May Go to Prison for 13 Years for Chalking Anti-Bank of America Graffiti on Sidewalk


Credit: Ronald Bailey

Reuters is reporting the outrageous case of Jeff Olson who is being prosecuted for chalking anti-Bank of America graffiti on the public sidewalks in front three branches of the mega-bank in San Diego. From Reuters:

Jeff Olson, the 40-year-old man who is being prosecuted for scrawling anti-megabank messages on sidewalks in water-soluble chalk last year now faces a 13-year jail sentence. A judge has barred his attorney from mentioning freedom of speech during trial.

According to the San Diego Reader, which reported on Tuesday that a judge had opted to prevent Olson's attorney from "mentioning the First Amendment, free speech, free expression, public forum, expressive conduct, or political speech during the trial," Olson must now stand trial for on 13 counts of vandalism.

In addition to possibly spending years in jail, Olson will also be held liable for fines of up to $13,000 over the anti-big-bank slogans that were left using washable children's chalk on a sidewalk outside of three San Diego, California branches of Bank of America, the massive conglomerate that received $45 billion in interest-free loans from the US government in 2008-2009 in a bid to keep it solvent after bad bets went south.

The Reader reports that Olson's hearing had gone as poorly as his attorney might have expected, with Judge Howard Shore, who is presiding over the case, granting Deputy City Attorney Paige Hazard's motion to prohibit attorney Tom Tosdal from mentioning the United States' fundamental First Amendment rights.

Apparently, Olson's protests against the bank pissed off a local cop who managed to get the city prosecutor's office to gin up "vandalism" charges against him. Read the whole story here.

If after reading the whole story you'd like to express your opinions to the San Diego prosecutors' office, consider using this handy email:

Disclosure: The illustration is from the Freedom of Speech Wall in Charlottesville where I spend most of my time. My wife is a financial advisor for Merrill Lynch which is owned by Bank of America.