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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.

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.

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.

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