Criminal Justice

Jury acquits in case over anti-bank messages, picture of money-grabbing octopus chalked on sidewalk


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A protester who wrote critical messages and drew a picture of an octopus grabbing money in water-soluble chalk on the sidewalk outside several branches of a major bank has been acquitted by a San Diego jury in a controversial criminal case.

Jeff Olson was found not guilty Monday on 13 misdemeanor counts that could have put him in prison, although he never denied responsibility for the offending material, the Los Angeles Times (sub. req.) reports.

The city’s mayor had publicly criticized the case, arguing that it infringed on Olson’s First Amendment rights—although the presiding judge in the case refused to allow Olson to defend it based on his free-speech rights.

“We prosecute vandalism and theft cases regardless of who the perpetrator or victim might be,” said City Attorney Jan Goldsmith. “We don’t decide, for example, based upon whether we like or dislike banks. That would be wrong under the law.”

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