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News & Politics News & Politics

California man faces 13 years in jail for scribbling anti-bank messages in chalk

Posted by on Jun. 27, 2013 at 2:02 AM
  • 52 Replies
California man faces 13 years in jail for scribbling anti-bank messages in chalk



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.

"The State's Vandalism Statute does not mention First Amendment rights," ruled Judge Shore on Tuesday.

Upon exiting the courtroom Olson seemed to be in disbelief.

"Oh my gosh," he said. "I can't believe this is happening."

Tosdal, who exited the courtroom shortly after his client, seemed equally bewildered.

"I've never heard that before, that a court can prohibit an argument of First Amendment rights," said Tosdal.

Olson, who worked as a former staffer for a US Senator from Washington state, was said to involve himself in political activism in tandem with the growth of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

On October 3, 2011, Olson first appeared outside of a Bank of America branch in San Diego, along with a homemade sign. Eight days later Olson and his partner, Stephen Daniels, during preparations for National Bank Transfer Day, the two were confronted by Darell Freeman, the Vice President of Bank of America’s Global Corporate Security.

A former police officer, Freeman accused Olson and Daniels of “running a business outside of the bank,” evidently in reference to the National Bank Transfer Day activities, which was a consumer activism initiative that sought to promote Americans to switch from commercial banks, like Bank of America, to not-for-profit credit unions.

At the time, Bank of America’s debit card fees were among one of the triggers that led Occupy Wall Street members to promote the transfer day.

"It was just an empty threat," says Olson of Freeman’s accusations. "He was trying to scare me away. To be honest, it did at first. I even called my bank and they said he couldn't do anything like that."

Olson continued to protest outside of Bank of America. In February 2012, he came across a box of chalk at a local pharmacy and decided to begin leaving his mark with written statements.

"I thought it was a perfect way to get my message out there. Much better than handing out leaflets or holding a sign," says Olson.

Over the course of the next six months Olson visited the Bank of America branch a few days per week, leaving behind scribbled slogans such as "Stop big banks" and "Stop Bank Blight.com."

According to Olson, who spoke with local broadcaster KGTV, one Bank of America branch claimed it had cost $6,000 to clean up the chalk writing.

Public records obtained by the Reader show that Freeman continued to pressure members of San Diego’s Gang Unit on behalf of Bank of America until the matter was forwarded to the City Attorney’s office.

On April 15, Deputy City Attorney Paige Hazard contacted Freeman with a response on his persistent queries.

"I wanted to let you know that we will be filing 13 counts of vandalism as a result of the incidents you reported," said Hazard.

Arguments for Olson’s case are set to be heard Wednesday morning, following jury selection.

http://rt.com/usa/california-man-13-prison-banks-237/
by on Jun. 27, 2013 at 2:02 AM
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Replies (1-10):
MissTacoBell
by on Jun. 27, 2013 at 2:06 AM
It begins....
kcangel63
by Amanda on Jun. 27, 2013 at 2:17 AM
:(

The bankers are winning. They say we are free, but HOW free are we? We are only as free as we will fight. Right now, we are on the brink of a bloody battle on our own soil. I am sad that this day will come soon if our freedoms are not restored.


Quoting MissTacoBell:

It begins....
SallyMJ
by Ruby Member on Jun. 27, 2013 at 3:28 AM
1 mom liked this

Sorry - Vandalism is not free speech.

That's why a bunch of Occupiers got in trouble when they did all that vandalism on private and public property with Occupy messages.

Was he stating his ideas? Sure. But he also defaced public property. That is not his right. 

This judge is absolutely correct. Can't practice free speech by defacing public or private property.

SallyMJ
by Ruby Member on Jun. 27, 2013 at 3:36 AM

Irrelevant. He defaced private property - that is not permitted by our laws. Free speech doesn't trump vandalism. Free speech is a right, vandalism is a crime. I think he forgot about that.

Re: your statement, what do you think about Big Labor? There is so much corruption in the unions. Those are very, tax-exempt organizations who bully people in order to accomplish their goals. They don't even pay taxes like corporations and other businesses do. Last week, there were a bunch of thuggish union employees striking at a store  because they didn't like what the CEO was doing.  "So go strike at the CEO's office!" I said. Just wondering whether you are consistent. 


Quoting kcangel63:

:(

The bankers are winning. They say we are free, but HOW free are we? We are only as free as we will fight. Right now, we are on the brink of a bloody battle on our own soil. I am sad that this day will come soon if our freedoms are not restored.


Quoting MissTacoBell:

It begins....



SallyMJ
by Ruby Member on Jun. 27, 2013 at 3:39 AM

...with a man being punished for his vandalism crimes. That he actually reported himself! Oops.

He was involved in Occupy. The vandalism professionals. Explains a lot.

Free speech does not include vandalizing private or public property with one's thoughts. That is what paper, emails, and peaceful (non-vandalizing) protests are for. He's a full grown adult man. He knows that.

He could have used his chalk on his own paper - not someone else's property. FAIL!

You do know in So. Calif, it rains maybe 15 times a year. Not going to wash that chalk away until rainy season in the winter.


Quoting MissTacoBell:

It begins....



little.worthen
by Tess on Jun. 27, 2013 at 3:40 AM
Wow. This ticks me off to no end?

Taking away the argument that he has freedom of speech and press? Giving him 13 years and $13,000 fines for children's washable sidewalk chalk? Wow.. Wth?
little.worthen
by Tess on Jun. 27, 2013 at 3:41 AM
2 moms liked this
The sidewalk is publicly owned.. It's not private property

Quoting SallyMJ:

Sorry - Vandalism is not free speech.

That's why a bunch of Occupiers got in trouble when they did all that vandalism with Occupy messages.

Was he stating his ideas? Sure. But he also damaged someone else's property. That is not his right. 

This judge is absolutely correct. Can't practice free speech by defacing someone else's property.

SallyMJ
by Ruby Member on Jun. 27, 2013 at 3:50 AM

In a place where it rains maybe 15 times a year. Hmm. Forcing them to clean up his vandalism.

Free speech doesn't include vandalism - except on his own property. Oops. He learned it from Occupy. As the story says.

And he self-reported these 13 incidents - info the city used to apply the law.

An absolutely appropriate sentence.

I think he needs to take a class in Common Sense, and one in the Constitution. And he needs to actually read the Constitition.


Quoting little.worthen:

Wow. This ticks me off to no end?

Taking away the argument that he has freedom of speech and press? Giving him 13 years and $13,000 fines for children's washable sidewalk chalk? Wow.. Wth?



SallyMJ
by Ruby Member on Jun. 27, 2013 at 3:54 AM

True. But he still can't vandalize public property.

Are you also an Occupy person?

I can't believe that libs seem not to understand the concept that vandalism of public and private property is actually a crime. I think they get mixed up because most of the Occupy vandals were not charged. Still is a crime.  

Quoting little.worthen:

The sidewalk is publicly owned.. It's not private property

Quoting SallyMJ:

Sorry - Vandalism is not free speech.

That's why a bunch of Occupiers got in trouble when they did all that vandalism with Occupy messages.

Was he stating his ideas? Sure. But he also damaged someone else's property. That is not his right. 

This judge is absolutely correct. Can't practice free speech by defacing someone else's property.



SallyMJ
by Ruby Member on Jun. 27, 2013 at 3:57 AM

Nope - he didn't use his freedom of speech. If he had, he would have done something peaceful with no property defacemenet. Which would have been fine. And there would be no legal action.

But he vandalized public property. Which is a crime.

I don't understand why he thought he would not be held accountable for those 13 acts.

And he is a full grown adult man...going on10.



Quoting little.worthen:

Wow. This ticks me off to no end?

Taking away the argument that he has freedom of speech and press? Giving him 13 years and $13,000 fines for children's washable sidewalk chalk? Wow.. Wth?



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