Anti-Bank Graffiti Artist is Acquitted
A San Diego man accused of writing "No thanks, big banks,” in chalk outside of three Bank of America branches and urging customers to transfer their funds to a credit union at the peak of the Bank Transfer Day movement, was acquitted Monday of all charges.
A Superior Court jury deliberated for five hours after a four-day trial before acquitting Jeff Olson of the 13 misdemeanor charges that could have brought 13 years in jail and $13,000 in fines.
Olson was charged with scrawling messages like "Shame on B of A" and `'No thanks, big banks" in water-soluble chalk on sidewalks outside San Diego Bank of America branches from April to August 2012. He included a drawing of an octopus reaching for dollar bills.
San Diego Mayor Bob Filner told local media it was a "nonsense prosecution" that came in response to complaints from Bank of America.
"It's washable chalk, it's political slogans," Filner said last week. "I think it's a stupid case. It's costing us money."
The city attorney's office said it offered to reduce the charges if Olson agreed to perform community service by cleaning up graffiti, but he refused. The office said the case was referred by the police department.
"We prosecute vandalism and theft cases regardless of who the perpetrator or victim might be," San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said at a news conference. "We don't decide, for example, based upon whether we like or dislike banks. That would be wrong under the law."
Olson, who was inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement, said he was relieved by the outcome and that the prosecution brought more attention to his views than he ever imagined possible.
"I couldn't have done better if I rented an airplane with a banner and put billboards up all over town," he told local media.