Man faces 13 years in prison, $13K in fines for writing on city sidewalks with chalk

City says Jeff Olson's actions were vandalism

SAN DIEGO - The case against a North Park man who wrote anti-big bank messages on city sidewalks with chalk will go to trial, a judge decided Tuesday.

Jeff Olson is charged with 13 counts of vandalism and is facing 13 years in jail, as well as $13,000 in restitution fees.

Olson calls the charges heavy-handed and describes what he did as free speech.

"I was encouraging folks to close their accounts at big Wall Street banks to transfer their money local nonprofit, community credit unions," said Olson.

Surveillance pictures showed him writing on the sidewalks of banks using children's chalk to promote anti-big bank websites. Olson told 10News he did this more than a dozen times at three different locations in Hillcrest and North Park.

"Free speech is protected; just because you don't like what it says doesn't mean that you can't do it," he said. "If I had drawn a little girl's hopscotch squares on the street, we wouldn't be here today."

However, the San Diego City Attorney's Office said Olson broke the law and considered his writings to be vandalism.

According to Olson, one of the banks -- Bank of America -- said it cost them $6,000 to clean up the chalk writing.

Jury selection for this case begins Tuesday afternoon.

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