Remember how we bailed out Bank of America and they repaid our kindness by finding ways to deny loan modifications so that they could foreclose on homeowners? If you were disgusted and outraged by that, just wait — there’s more. In San Diego, Jeff Olson is facing up to 13 years in a California prison. His crime? Writing anti-Bank of America messages on the public sidewalk outside 3 Bank of America branches in San Diego — in chalk. Not spray paint, not gang-related graffiti, but easily washed away children’s chalk. The same kind we let our kids draw on the driveway with. And for this, Mr. Olson could theoretically spend the next 13 years of his life in a state prison with drug runners, child molesters and bank robbers — for simply drawing on a taxpayer-owned sidewalk with chalk that can be removed with water in no time at all.
This isn’t a case of a police officer catching someone in an actual act of vandalism, arresting them and taking them to jail. What this seems to be is a vendetta against Jeff Olson by Bank of America for his support of Occupy Wall Street and National Bank Transfer Day, where he stood outside his local BOA and encouraged people to move their money to a local credit union. Darell Freeman, who is a corporate security officer for BOA, hounded San Diego city officials until they agreed to file 13 misdemeanor charges of vandalism against Mr. Olson — almost 8 months AFTER the alleged acts of “vandalism” happened.
To make matters even more pathetic, yesterday Mr. Olson was hit with a gag order by San Diego Judge Howard Shore, and basically told to keep his mouth shut about the case. Not because Mr. Olson was saying anything that wasn’t true, but simply because the judge was “unhappy” with people learning the real details and real possible penalties involved. Give me a break. How about all the people who were devastated and left homeless thanks to Bank of America’s practices? Who cares about them, right?
What we have here is a disgusting example of a corporation giving marching orders to our government officials to prosecute an individual for actions on public property that they did not like. I know that the word “fascism” is used far too frequently and without merit, but this a perfect real-life example of what fascism actually is. Meanwhile, not one banking executive is in prison. They’re sitting comfortably in their mansions while the people they cheated are out in the streets. Mr. Olsen simply wrote messages critical of Bank of America and he’s possibly looking at spending years locked away because of it. And if he spends even one day in jail, it will be longer than all of the bankers who were responsible for willfully collapsing our economy.
There is an injustice here and there was at least one crime to investigate. First of all, how does a bank have the power to get a person charged with a “crime” that wasn’t even committed on their property? Could I get arrested for protesting Walmart’s labor practices while standing on a public sidewalk adjacent to one of their supercenters? Were there favors exchanged between Bank of America or their representative and the City Attorney in order to have these charges brought? Second, depriving someone of their liberty for up to 13 years for drawing mild anti-Bank of America messages is both asinine and extremely heavy-handed.
I hope this goes to trial by jury — it ought to be thrown out. Then, I hope Mr. Olson sues Bank of America and Darell Freeman for as much as a jury will give him. I’m sure BOA won’t have too many sympathizers there.
People vs. Olson is case #M153987
Jan Goldsmith can be reached at 619-236-6220 or [email protected]
Feel free to let them know how you feel about this abuse of power. While it’s unlikely Mr. Olson will actually be hit with a 13 year sentence, it’s a travesty of justice that we’re even forced to talk about this case at all.
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