SAN DIEGO (7/2/13)--A jury Monday found a 40-year-old man not guilty of vandalism charges brought for writing protest messages in sidewalk chalk in front of three Bank of America branches in San Diego.
Jeff Olson had been charged with 13 counts of vandalism by City Attorney Jan Goldsmith for writing statements including "No thanks big banks" and "Shame on Bank of America" on the sidewalk outside a BofA location between February and August 2012 (Fox 5 San Diego).
Olson, a Bank Transfer Day proponent and a member of California Coast CU in San Diego, faced 13 years in jail and a $13,000 fine if convicted of the charges.
Olson's attorney Tom Tosdal said vandalism law requires that jurors find something was "maliciously defaced," but Olson's purpose was to inform, Tosdal said.
Several news reports indicate that BofA officials pressured local authorities for months to arrest Olson. They reported several e-mails from one BofA official asking for progress on the case. That official had allegedly confronted Olson and another man in front of a BofA branch, accusing them of running a business outside the bank (News Now June 27).
Olson told media he carried a homemade sign promoting Bank Transfer Day outside one branch but decided his time would be better spent at the banks, trying to convince people to ditch their banks for local credit unions. He noted that was the best way to hold executives and corporations accountable for the financial crisis.