Created: Tue, 25 Jun 2013 10:59:00 PST
Updated: Wed, 26 Jun 2013 04:10:21 PST
SAN DIEGO - Writing messages with chalk on a city sidewalk can be considered vandalism under state law. North Park resident Jeff Olson is set to go on trial for just that on Wednesday. The San Diego City Attorney's office is prosecuting the case.
On Tuesday, Olson admitted scrawling messages on sidewalks outside mid-city Bank of America Branches in 2011 and 2012. He says he was protesting big banks and their ties to the financial collapse. He says he was encouraging customers to put their money in credit unions.
“My chalk drawings are clearly free speech and protected by the first amendment,” he told reporters outside the downtown court.
During pre-trial motions prosecutors introduced a motion to prohibit Olson’s defense attorney Tom Tosdal from using the words First Amendment, free speech, free expression and other similar terms during the trial. The judge agreed saying jurors should focus on whether Olson committed vandalism and not why he did it.
Olson says he believes the trial is about much more than his chalk messages. He accuses City Attorney Jan Goldsmith of receiving campaign money from the big banks.
“Jan Goldsmith has received campaign contributions from Bank Americorp and Merrill Lynch. I think this is mostly about Goldsmith for Mayor 2016,” he said.
If convicted, Olson faces 13 years in prison and a 13-thousand dollar fine.