Deliberations begin in chalk vandalism case

Jeff Olson faces 13 years in prison if convicted

SAN DIEGO - Jury deliberations began Friday in the trial of a 40-year-old man charged with 13 misdemeanor vandalism counts involving protest messages in sidewalk chalk in front of three Bank of America branches in San Diego.

The case, which has received national attention, pits the rights of someone to protest in public against repeated impositions on bank personnel.

Jeffrey David Olson faces 13 years in prison if convicted of all counts, and if he's sentenced on each one consecutively.

His lawyer, Tom Tosdal, said vandalism law requires that jurors find something was "maliciously defaced."

"His purpose was not malicious. His purpose was to inform," Tosdal said of his client.

Olson has not denied that he scrawled anti-bank messages and artwork outside the banks last year.

The prosecution of Olson has brought condemnation of the City Attorney's Office from Mayor Bob Filner, who called it a waste of time.

Tosdal said it was an "enormous waste of public resources." He said bank officials demanded the prosecution because they didn't like his client's message.

However, Deputy City Attorney Paige Hazard told the jurors that there are ways to get one's message out, and the defendant intentionally chose to break the rules.

If he'd used the chalk just a couple of times, he wouldn't have ever been caught, but "he went back again and again and again," she said.

Hazard said Olson had to make "a real nuisance of himself" to attract the attention of law enforcement.

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