At risk of 13 years in prison plus an addition $13,000 in fines, activist Jeff Olson turned down a plea deal and took his case before a jury where today he was acquitted on all 13 misdemeanor charges in what appears to be another jury nullification.
A Superior Court jury deliberated for five hours after a four-day trial before acquitting Jeff Olson Monday of the 13 misdemeanor charges that could have brought 13 years in jail and $13,000 in fines.
Olson, 40, 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.
This statement from the San Diego city attorney’s office hints at the power of a jury to push back against wasteful and abusive prosecutions by sending a message that juries won’t make them stick:
“Graffiti remains vandalism in the state of California,” the city attorney’s office said. “Under the law, there is no First Amendment right to deface property, even if the writing is easily removed, whether the message is aimed at banks or any other person or group. We are, however, sympathetic to the strong public reaction to this case and the jury’s message.”