Big bank protester Jeff Olson was found not guilty Monday after facing 13 counts of misdemeanor vandalism charges for writing protest slogans in washable sidewalk chalk in San Diego, CA.
“I’m really relieved,” Olson said. “It’s been an incredibly stressful situation. It feels really good to know that the people of San Diego as represented by the jury are on my side.”
“The big Wall Street banks nearly drove our economy into a ditch,” Olson had said, adding that he had hoped his sidewalk messages would help people question the destructive role of big banks in the U.S. financial system.
The decision, made by a jury, came after growing media blowback against the city of San Diego and City Attorney Jan Goldsmith’s office for going through with the case. San Diego Mayor Bob Filner had also sided with Olson, calling the trial a "misuse and waste of taxpayer money."
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Additionally, activists organized a "Chalk-u-py" rally in support of Olson over the weekend.
"No Thanks, Big Banks" and "Shame on Bank of America" are some of the slogans Olson had written on separate occasions in the water-soluble chalk on sidewalks outside of three Bank of America branches in the city.
Olson had faced up to 13 years in prison and $13,000 in fines.
As the Huffington Post reports, Olson had also raised questions about the role of Darrell Freeman, vice president of corporate security for Bank of America. Olson said Freeman had played a major role in getting the city to take up the case. According to Olson and several local news outlets, Freeman had repeatedly asked the city attorney's office to prosecute Olson.