Walter Mencken 2:08 p.m., Aug. 27
Judge issues gag order in case of man prosecuted for scribbling anti-bank messages in chalk
Judge Howard Shore says media has exaggerated possible punishment and also admonished Mayor Filner for statements made in support of the defendant.
The judge in the case of the anti-Bank of America protester has issued a gag order, prohibiting the defendant or any witnesses from speaking to any members of the media.
Judge Howard Shore criticized the media coverage in the case, objecting to reports that defendant Jeff Olson is facing 13 years in jail for scribbling anti-big-bank messages outside of three San Diego Bank of America branches.
As was reported here, the City of San Diego's complaint filed on April 16 in San Diego Superior Court lists thirteen separate vandalism charges. Next to each charge, under sentence range is "1 Yr/$1,000."
"It's not going to happen and I would be surprised if it ever happened to any defendant with no criminal record," Shore told the lawyers and members of the media during today's hearing.
During the lunch break, Olson read a statement from his lawyer to reporters.
"My attorney has instructed me as follows," read Olson from a small crumbled up piece of paper. "This morning Judge Shore issued a gag order prohibiting all counsel and parties from commenting or expressing opinions on the case. All I am permitted to say is that I disagree."
The gag order came less than three hours after Olson appeared on the Mornings with Chip and Ladona radio show on KOGO. During the show, Olson was not shy with his opinions on the Bank of America security executive who continued to ask San Diego Police Officers and the City Attorney's Office for prosecution as well as on other issues.
The decision is in addition to a previous ruling from Shore which prohibits Olson's attorney Tom Tosdal from mentioning the First Amendment, free speech, free expression, public forum, expressive conduct, or political speech during the trial.
At today's hearing, Judge Shore didn't stop at voicing his disappointment with the media coverage. He then turned his attention to Mayor Filner for his statements in support of the defendant's right to free speech.
Shore said the Mayor was "irresponsible" for comments he made in a June 20 memo, as was reported here on June 23.
"This young man is being persecuted for thirteen counts of vandalism stemming from an expression of political protest that involved washable children's chalk on a City sidewalk," read Filner's statement. "It is alleged that he has no previous criminal record. If these assertions are correct, I believe this is a misuse and waste of taxpayer money. It could also be characterized as an abuse of power that infringes on First Amendment particularly when it is arbitrarily applied to some, but not all, similar speech."
Shore also stated that the Mayor has no place injecting himself in court trials, regardless of his opinion on the case.
Filner's office was asked for comment yesterday on this case but so far has failed to respond.
More like this:
- Is it the mess or the message? City Attorney has been selective when prosecuting chalk vandalism — June 30, 2013
- City Attorney Jan Goldsmith has a history of prosecuting activists who scribble chalk on public sidewalks — June 28, 2013
- Little Italy Festa announces theme for 2013 chalk festival: "City Attorney Goldsmith is a ______." — June 27, 2013
- Chalking the plank: Judge won't allow bank protester to claim first amendment rights — June 25, 2013
- He chalks the line: City Attorney prosecutes man for writing anti-bank slogans in water soluble chalk — June 23, 2013