Nation

Jury acquits anti-bank graffiti artist

SAN DIEGO — The mayor called the case ‘‘stupid’’ and a jury swiftly said it should not stick, rejecting vandalism charges against a man who wrote anti-bank slogans on San Diego sidewalks.

A Superior Court jury deliberated for five hours after a four-day trial before acquitting Jeff Olson Monday of the 13 misdemeanor charges that could have brought 13 years in jail and $13,000 in fines.

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Olson, 40, was charged with scrawling messages like ‘‘Shame on B of A’’ in water-soluble chalk on sidewalks outside Bank of America branches in 2012. He included a drawing of an octopus reaching for dollar bills.

Olson turned to his attorney, nodded, and smiled as the verdicts were read.

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The trial was the latest in a series of dust-ups between City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, who prosecuted the case, and Mayor Bob Filner, who called it a ‘‘nonsense prosecution’’ that came in response to complaints from Bank of America.

‘‘It’s washable chalk; it’s political slogans,’’ Filner said last week. ‘‘I think it’s a stupid case. It’s costing us money.’’

Jail time is highly unusual for graffiti convictions, which typically result in fines or community service.

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The city attorney’s office said it offered to reduce the charges if Olson agreed to perform community service by cleaning up graffiti, but he refused.

Associated Press

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