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Boardman writes: "Olson, 40, wasn't kidding when he went on a seven month rampage, from February to August, 2012, remorselessly using a water-soluble children's chalk to scar the sidewalks in front of a local Bank of America."

Jeff Olson faced up to 13 years in prison for his sidewalk chalk protest of Bank of America. (photo:
Jeff Olson faced up to 13 years in prison for his sidewalk chalk protest of Bank of America. (photo:

San Diego's Circus Trial

By William Boardman, Reader Supported News

03 July 13


Sidewalk chalk protest reveals gaping governmental failures

erhaps you've heard about - and enjoyed - the acquittal of Jeff Olson after he was tried on 13 counts of vicious chalk attack on the Bank of America in San Diego.

A jury of his peers said essentially the same thing as Senator Elizabeth Warren's tweet last week: "You've got to be kidding me."

Well, no, actually, no one involved was really kidding.

Olson, 40, wasn't kidding when he went on a seven month rampage, from February to August, 2012, remorselessly using a water-soluble children's chalk to scar the sidewalks in front of a local Bank of America with such vicious messages as "No thanks, big banks" and "Shame on Bank of America."

Being water-soluble, the chalked messages didn't last. It's possible that the sentiment behind them remains semi-permanent among much of the population.

Seems the Bank of America Has Tender Feelings

The Bank of America wasn't kidding when it complained, but at first the San Diego City Attorney was reluctant to prosecute. The bank's Darell Freeman, VP of Global Corporate Security, reportedly hounded police and prosecutors to act.

The Bank of America wasn't kidding when it claimed it had to spend more than $6,000 cleaning chalk off public sidewalks, and security VP Freeman even got into a confrontation with Olson, as he chalked up two more branches.

The Bank of America wasn't kidding when it reminded City Attorney Jan Goldsmith that his election campaign had accepted banks' financial contributions. And it wasn't kidding when it reminded Goldsmith that he might be looking for more contributions when he decided to run for mayor in 2016.

Finally the Bank Snapped the City Attorney Into Line

City Attorney Goldsmith wasn't kidding when, perhaps regretting his politically unseemly delay, he went ahead and overcharged Olson with 13 misdemeanor counts of vandalism, putting Olson in jeopardy of a potential sentence of $13,000 in fines and 13 years in jail.

Olson wasn't kidding when he asserted that his chalk crusade was a constitutionally protected expression of his First Amendment right to free speech, or when he hired defense attorney Tom Tosdal.

City Attorney Goldsmith's lead prosecutor, Paige Hazard, wasn't kidding when, according to the San Diego reader, she offered Olson a plea deal:

On May 16, Hazard told Olson the City would drop the case if he agreed to serve 32 hours of community service, attend an 8-hour seminar by the "Corrective Behavior Institute," pay Bank of America $6,299 in restitution for the clean-up, waive all Fourth Amendment rights guarding against search and seizures, and surrender his driver's license for a three year period.

Olson wasn't kidding when he turned down the deal.

Well, If You Don't Like the First Offer, How About a Worse One?

Prosecutor Hazard wasn't kidding when she made a second offer, according to the Reporter:

So on June 18, as the June 25 trial date neared, Hazard offered Olson another deal. Olson would plead guilty to one count of vandalism, agree to serve three years' probation, pay restitution - amount undetermined - spend 24 hours cleaning up graffiti, and surrender his driver's license for 2 years.

Olson wasn't kidding when he turned down the deal, telling reporters: "I didn't see how that was fair…. It was their decision to take this to court, not mine."

San Diego mayor Bob Filner wasn't kidding when he wrote a June 20 memorandum that read, in part:

This young man is being persecuted for thirteen counts of vandalism stemming from an expression of political protest that involved washable children's chalk on a City sidewalk. It is alleged that he has no previous criminal record. If these assertions are correct, I believe this is a misuse and waste of taxpayer money. It could also be characterized as an abuse of power that infringes on First Amendment particularly when it is arbitrarily applied to some, but not all, similar speech."

Is There Any Reason the Court Has to Allow the Constitution into Evidence?

Prosecutor Hazard wasn't kidding when, as the trial started, she made a motion to prohibit Olson's attorney Tom Tosdal from mentioning or making reference to "the First Amendment, free speech, free expression, public forum, expressive conduct, or political speech" during the trial, in front of the jury, or to the media.

Superior Court Judge Howard Shore wasn't kidding when he granted the motion and said, "The State's Vandalism Statute does not mention First Amendment rights." No kidding - most statutes don't mention the Constitution at all. Attorney Tosdol said, "I've never heard that before, that a court can prohibit an argument of First Amendment rights."

Attorney Tosdol wasn't kidding when he argued to the jury that the vandalism statute requires that something be "maliciously defaced" to be guilty of vandalism, or when he said of Olson: "His purpose was not malicious. His purpose was to inform."

City Attorney Goldsmith wasn't kidding when he had five attorneys from his office in court to hear the jury's verdict on July 1.

Who Thought It Was a Good Idea to Give the Jury the Last Word?

The jury wasn't kidding when it delivered a "not guilty" verdict on each of the 13 vandalism counts against Olson.

Judge Shore wasn't kidding when, after the verdict, he explained his gag order on arguing the constitution to the jury or the media. Judge Shore, described by the media as "a crusty old guard Republican," told the courtroom:

The media set the tone in this case by talking about a potential 13-year sentence. It had a tendency to infuriate the public instead of informing it. Anyone in the system, the lawyers and anyone involved, knew that maximum sentence would never be handed out but still it was reported.

Judge Shore wasn't kidding when he added that Mayor Filner was "irresponsible" for writing his June 20 memo criticizing the prosecution. Before becoming a judge, Shore was a San Diego County assistant district attorney who, according to his law school bio, "prosecuted several hundred cases, many involving psychiatric and other expert evidence."

Prosecutors Claim No Responsibility for Their Decisions

Prosecutor Hazard wasn't kidding when she defended the cost and purpose of the prosecution, blaming Olson for turning down "fair plea offers."

City Attorney Goldsmith wasn't kidding when he had his office issue an official statement that blamed Olson for forcing the city to take the case to trial.

An anonymous group of San Diego citizens wasn't kidding on June 27, when it created a Facebook page called "Recall Superior Court Judge Howard Shore," which had 285 "likes" as of July 2. Judge Shore was first elected in 2002 and is currently serving a six year term that ends in 2014. He is a 1972 graduate of the University of San Diego Law School and this spring taught a course there on "Scientific Evidence."

Ocean Beach Rag at wasn't kidding on June 28 when it reported on Jovan Jackson's second marijuana trial, Judge Shore presiding. Jackson had offered a medical marijuana defense in her first trial and the jury had acquitted her. In the second trial, OBRag said:

[Jackson] was denied a [medical marijuana] defense and ultimately convicted. San Diego Superior Court Judge Howard Shore … referred to medical marijuana as "dope," and called California's medical marijuana laws "a scam" … [He] sentenced Jackson to 180 days in jail.

The appeals court wasn't kidding on October 24, 2012, when it overturned Judge Shore's decision, and made its ruling a precedent by publishing it.

More People Getting Involved? This Can't Be Good.

Another anonymous San Diego group wasn't kidding on June 24, when it created a Facebook page called "Recall Jan Goldsmith," the city attorney, about whom it says: "Goldsmith has converted his Office from the Professional Counsel to the City, to an unprofessional, out of control political platform for a Republican politician running for a new office." With 306 "likes" as of July 2, that is reportedly six times as many as a similar site to recall Mayor Filner.

Mayor Filner wasn't kidding when, according to San Diego 6 TV, he "slashed the budget of the City Attorney's Office for the fiscal year that started Monday [July 1]" or when he reportedly criticized Goldsmith behind closed doors.

City Attorney Goldsmith wasn't kidding on July 2, when he announced on "Good Morning San Diego" Monday that his office "will not take part in closed session meetings until it receives assurances that his officials will not be thrown out of a meeting again by police force." These are closed meetings held to discuss legal and personnel issues.

The judicial sideshow may be over in San Diego, but the circus hasn't left town and some of the clowns are still in office.

But no one's talking about prosecuting the banks for the economic vandalism they committed against the country. And they're not kidding. your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+133 # Maxwell 2013-07-03 14:18
Maybe there's still hope for some kind of justice in our current court system. The intricate ins-and-outs of the law are what they are, but the jury had the final say in this affair. They acquitted the defendant, and rightly so.

Now, if we can just bring charges against the bankers and Wall Streeters who both caused and profited from the financial crash...
+23 # kalpal 2013-07-04 06:04
You can't prosecute the guys who own the legislature and the executives. This is a nation that nowadays exists to keep our richest most over-priveleged citizens very fat, sassy and comfy.
+18 # RLF 2013-07-04 08:50
I've been in a malicious prosecution and the problem, even if you prevail, is that the lawyers cost tens of thousands of dollars. The justice system in this country is sooo broken.
+1 # Jim Young 2014-04-21 13:41
Quoting Maxwell:
...Now, if we can just bring charges against the bankers and Wall Streeters who both caused and profited from the financial crash...

Don't have the power to encourage or force actual prosecution of them (YET), but we did quit doing business with them (withdrawing our accounts) after going to an OWS General Assembly in Riverside California. We had been dumped into BoA years earlier when they took over Security Pacific.
+90 # jwb110 2013-07-03 14:26
This is just another version of the Manning, Snowden and Assange evidence that there is a politically ideological element who constantly violate their oath of office and should be removed from public service.
+28 # hillwright 2013-07-03 15:12
Don't hold your breath.
+19 # kalpal 2013-07-04 06:06
As GW Bush explained about the constitution, "It's just a piece of paper." He reneged on his oath of office because it was based on just a piece of paper.
+19 # wrknight 2013-07-04 08:04
So get busy and remove them from office. Your opportunity to do so comes in November next year.

And for those of you in California, you can create your own opportunity any time you want. It's called RECALL.
+1 # Jim Young 2014-04-23 11:55
Quoting wrknight:
So get busy and remove them from office. Your opportunity to do so comes in November next year.

And for those of you in California, you can create your own opportunity any time you want. It's called RECALL.

You mean the one Darrell Issa bankrolled, after the Republican machine primaried the electable Republican (Riordan) for a sufficiently conservative one? Try my little bet winner sometime, where you ask the most Republican person you know (and I knew former Presidents of Republican political organizations in California) who that candidate was. His "unexpected" loss, despite heavy spending, led them to the "do over."

I considered running, myself, in the circus that didn't require massive numbers of signatures to qualify, just paying a $3,500 registration fee to get your name on the ballot (I gave it much more thought and came closer to doing it than many other things in my life).

I've often wondered how much "Candidate for Governor of California" would have added to my resume, but, then, how much did it add to the machine picked candidate that lost to Gray Davis? Go ahead and have some fun seeing if even the most die hard California Republican you know has as much trouble as you might, in remembering or finding out who that was.
+77 # djnova50 2013-07-03 15:31
When my sons were little, I bought them sidewalk chalk. This stuff washes off of sidewalks at the first hint of water. I remember one housing area where we were living that the groundskeeper sent us a nasty note about defacing government property, etc. I've always encouraged my children to be creative and express themselves artistically. When I got the letter requesting that I remove the markings from the sidewalk, I just tossed a bucket of water onto the sidewalk and away went the particles of my sons' artwork. It just amazes me that B of A spent over $6000 to do the cleanup.
+106 # Vegan_Girl 2013-07-03 15:34
I am not angry with Bank of America. To me that would be like being angry with a tornado.

But I am really, really angry with all those Americans who still continue to bank with BoA.

Too big to fail? Let's make 'em smaller. Thank you, Mr. Olson for your service.

The American "justice" system just sickens me with its wild-eyed injustice and harsh cruelty to all but the powerful.
+43 # BobboMax 2013-07-03 17:35
[quote name="Vegan_Gir l"]

"But I am really, really angry with all those Americans who still continue to bank with BoA."

That's why Credit Unions were invented- there's one in your area you're eligible to join- a few minutes research will produce several possibilities. The nice part is YOU can vote for the Board of Directors- if they get pissy, you can vote them out.

AND, a credit union doesn't have to make a profit for the shareholders, so they can afford to give you good service.
+4 # unitedwestand 2013-07-04 00:12
With the conglomeration of financial concerns in this country, even if you've avoided doing business with the likes of BofA, all of a sudden you find out that two of your credit card accounts are now just that. All one can do at that point it to have a watchful eye, look at a few of the details in their contracts and hope you don't fall behind.
+1 # Jim Young 2014-04-23 12:04
That's why we dropped our oldest Credit Union when they contracted with MBNA and cancelled all our accounts with BoA. The names have changed since, so look out.

For some other interesting history, take a look at how John Reed (and Sandy Weill) have had changes of heart.
See John Reed's change at
+40 # bbaldwin2001 2013-07-03 15:53
I, too am angry at Bank of America. They are so low they could not get any lower...or could they? Threating a public officer holder with "withholding campaign funds" is bribery. B of A is the worst of the worst banks.
+5 # BobboMax 2013-07-03 22:23

"I, too am angry at Bank of America." To misquote Robert Kennedy, "Don't get mad, get out (of the system.) Besides ranting on RSN (which I support) what have you actually done to reduce your support, direct and indirect, of the banksters?
+35 # PABLO DIABLO 2013-07-03 16:08
Vote the leeches out of office. Boycott the corporations that are killing us. Wake up America.
+40 # coberly 2013-07-03 16:34
well, add to your list of banks committing crimes against the american people

Wells Fargo which is using fraudulent means to force foreclosure on property. the method is claiming "incomplete paperwork" and refusing to accept payment, and then foreclosing for non payment.

Bank of America is still doing this too, and neither the Federal Government nor the State will do anything about it.

maybe we need more chalk.
+1 # Jim Young 2014-04-23 12:09
While what you say is true, I wouldn't want to imply that Wells Fargo was the worst. My experience was they were one of the latest to fall into the gutter that resulted from the worse(and earlier) bad acts of who they felt they had to compete with.

Frontline's "Money, Power, and Wall Street" seemed to match our street view of the relative judgements of the various entities.
+39 # Majikman 2013-07-03 16:43
OK everybody, let's get out the chalk and have at it. Who'da thunk too big to fail could be terrified of child's play?
+37 # FLAK88 2013-07-03 16:56
I can't do anything about San Diego city government, since I don't live there. However, I still have an old B of A sponsored credit card that's coming up for re-authorizatio n. I'll call them to cancel it. I will take great pleasure in telling them the reason why. I encourage everyone to 'see what's in their wallet' and do something about it !
+30 # DPM 2013-07-03 17:11
Ha! I love it! Perhaps more incidents like this one, local, will wake up people to the way our rights are being diminished and abused. More people seem to be able to "connect" when it happens to their neighbors and friends. The powerful are beginning to overstep and more people are taking notice. Not enough, but more.
I like your comments "Vegan_Girl".
+17 # X Dane 2013-07-03 20:31
They SAID they paid 6000$. Take that with a BIG grain of salt
+16 # soularddave 2013-07-03 22:20
Why did BofA feel the need to remove the information from the PUBLIC walk? Same need for "expression" that was felt by Mr Olson?
+12 # X Dane 2013-07-03 20:35
"The powerful are beginning to overstep and more people are taking notice" ??????

You MUST be kidding. The powerful have been overstepping for a long time, but NOW more and more people are getting fed up and refuse to take it.
+24 # geraldom 2013-07-03 17:27
Does anyone remember that old saying: "Power corrupts, & absolute power corrupts absolutely"?

Much of the fault can be blamed on American voters for voting in many of these political ideologues into office. And if they weren't voted into office, but selected by political-ideol ogue people who were ultimately voted into office, then again the voters must take full responsibility, and that was before the use of e-voting machines & extreme gerrymandering efforts.

San Diego I thought is supposed to be an extremely liberal and progressive city. So how did assholes like this get into positions of power? And if San Diego is what I believed it to be, then one has to wonder how much worse things are in states like Texas and Mississippi.

Short of a 1776-style revolution, the only solution to this mess would be massive recall elections (and right now without any delay) to rid ourselves of these assholes and to tell the next (hopefully much better) batch that we vote in that if they screw up in any major way by acting like tyrants just once, that they will also be run out on the rail like their former counterparts.

The only problem we have now, and it's a big one, is that the American people have lost the power to have their vote counted honestly. HAVA now mandates that all elections use e-voting machines manufactured & programmed by private companies that have their own political agenda. No hand-counted ballots allowed anymore!

So, now what?
+15 # MendoChuck 2013-07-03 17:55
Sorry to mention this Vegan-Girl but in order to get the American Public to withdraw from using the Bank of America you must let them know what the reality of Bank of America really is.
To do this you would need the so called Lame Stream Media to actually print the news and accurate information.
Could you please tell me where this story appeared in the Lame Stream Media? And appeared with ALL the information.
What we have here is the need for PAID advertising and the submission of the Lame Stream Media to those that pay for the advertising.
The American Public is secondary to the corporate dollar when it comes to our major information source.
With some luck and if we can hold out long enough . . . .
Well you get the picture . . . . . Will we last long enough???
+20 # bmorriscatalyst 2013-07-03 18:29
Can anyone explain why BofA is not paying ALL of the court costs for both sides of this case? The article shows a clear trail leading straight to the BofA as the source of the lawsuit. Seems like not only literary, but actual justice that the prosecutor and the judge be held accountable with the likelyhood of losing their political careers at the hands of the voters in 2014.
+1 # WBoardman 2013-07-04 15:49
The simple is: that's not the way the system works.

This was a criminal trial, so the state bears its costs and
the defendant bears his.

In a civil trial, the winning side might be able to get
his costs covered by the loser, but it's not typical.
+23 # davidgapp 2013-07-03 18:43
Support your local community bank or credit union - I closed my Wells Fargo and my Bank of America accounts!
+21 # X Dane 2013-07-03 21:05
I think Mr. Olson is a hero. It is a term I find generally overused. But fist he was angry. And he ACTED in a non hurtful way. And NO property was destroyed, but a LOT of people were informed.

Also he didn't back down, he stood his ground, not knowing if he was going to get a big fine and maybe some time in the slammer.

I also applaud the jury for being smart enough to to find him not guilty.
Bank of America's claim that they paid 6000$ to clean the side walk is ballony.
Or they are stupid. Hosing down a side walk could not possibly cost 6000$
+1 # Kathymoi 2013-07-05 18:42
I enjoyed reading your straight talk.
+16 # fdawei 2013-07-03 23:02
Let's start a new movement - "Chalk-a-block" at the nearest bank near you!
+13 # futhark 2013-07-04 01:34
I hope the voters of San Diego won't be kidding when they vote the current prosecutor or city council members who appoint the prosecutor out of office in the next election.

Up north here in Lake County, California, the voters tossed out their incumbent and corrupt district attorney and sheriff after the equally ridiculous and now infamous Bismarck Dinius case, involving an inappropriately prosecuted case of manslaughter. The crime was actually committed by a ranking member of the sheriff's department. Mr. Dinius was acquitted by the jury prior to the election.
+12 # kalpal 2013-07-04 06:01
How sad that we live in a country where the rich can force massive taxpayer expenditures on their behalf while buying legislation that minimizes their tax exposure far below that paid by the bottom 90%?
+12 # seeuingoa 2013-07-04 10:48
How refreshing in a violent world:



Go Go Go !
+6 # Kathymoi 2013-07-04 11:13
Well, I'm impressed with Mayor Filner.

I'm so interested to know what will happen to him in the media (both tv and newspapers) in the coming election. Obviously, he won't be getting big contributions from any big corporations, notably not Bank of America or any of its brother banks. Let's see what the media does with him. I hope he wins re-election.
+8 # geraldom 2013-07-04 15:50
Actually, let's see how smart the people are, the voters. Let's see if they are smart enough to know that the nasty ads paid for by the banks and their friends that will probably come up in the next election are just that, nasty ads that reflect lies, deception and exaggerations, and that it will not in anyway influence them to vote against the current mayor.
+5 # Archie1954 2013-07-04 18:05
This is a great article, informative, irreverant and very enjoyable reading. It is also serious and should be read and understood by the good people of
San Diego. A circus is where clowns should be seen, not in the courtrooms of the city.
+4 # propsguy 2013-07-05 06:30
everyone everywhere should get some washable chalk and write stuff on the public sidewalks outside of banks. they can't arrest us all
-1 # tomtom 2013-07-05 09:34
Can Jeff Olsen get amnesty in
Iceland or Ecuador? Will American homes have to be converted to safe houses? Watch or participate in the fight for democracy!
+2 # tomtom 2013-07-05 14:04
I had my first savings account as a cub scout in Los Angeles in the early 50's at B of A, but, by the mid 60's, they wouldn't change a 20 dollar bill for me, because I didn't have an account. They even denied cashing one of their own client's check, made out to me, because it was from another branch in San Diego. The airlines, banks; what's with all this rude and punishing attitude and service. So many business' express severe hatred for the general public. Hey, how about a little love and respect?

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