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Jurors Reach Verdict In San Diego Chalk Vandalism Case

Evening Edition

Jurors have acquitted a 40-year-old man accused of using sidewalk chalk to write protest messages in front of three local banks.

Wikimedia Commons

Colorful sticks of sidewalk chalk.

Aired 7/2/13 on KPBS Midday Edition.


Jeff Olson, Defendant

Tom Tosdal, Olson's Attorney

Marybeth Herald, Professor of Law, Thomas Jefferson School of Law


The case received national attention, focusing on the rights of someone to protest in public against repeated impositions on bank personnel.

Jeffrey David Olson was found not guilty on all 13 counts against him. He faced 13 years in prison if jurors had convicted him of all counts and sentenced on each one consecutively.

Before the case went to jurors Friday, defense attorney Tom Tosdal said vandalism law requires that jurors find something was "maliciously defaced."

"His purpose was not malicious. His purpose was to inform," Tosdal said of his client.

Olson has not denied 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."

The prosecution of Olson has brought condemnation of the City Attorney's Office from Mayor Bob Filner, who called it a waste of time.

Tosdal said it was an "enormous waste of public resources." He said bank officials demanded the prosecution because they didn't like his client's message.

However, Deputy City Attorney Paige Hazard told the jurors that there are ways to get one's message out, and the defendant intentionally chose to break the rules.

If he'd used the chalk just a couple of times, he wouldn't have ever been caught, but "he went back again and again and again," she said.

Hazard said Olson had to make "a real nuisance of himself" to attract the attention of law enforcement.

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Avatar for user 'Sknnr'

Sknnr | July 1, 2013 at 1:37 p.m. ― 3 years, 8 months ago

The DA's office is on record as not pursuing cases unless they believe they can prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Apparently the City Atty's office doesn't follow the same criteria. They had to know getting a conviction was slim.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | July 1, 2013 at 4:05 p.m. ― 3 years, 8 months ago

Goldsmith needs to be recalled.

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Avatar for user 'Mmikey'

Mmikey | July 2, 2013 at 7:10 a.m. ― 3 years, 8 months ago

Its interesting that this got to court long before real issues.

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Avatar for user 'jckcomm'

jckcomm | July 2, 2013 at 7:24 a.m. ― 3 years, 8 months ago

There is a remedy for the Bank other than Criminal prosecution. Why not file a civil suit? I'll tell you why...the court system in CA is so underfunded that resolving a civil suit now takes forever, and it seems easier for the Bank to use "friends" in City Government to get its way. That's the way it looks.I am glad the jury

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