MARK KARLIN, BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Jan Goldsmith, the San Diego City Attorney whose office is currently prosecuting Jeff Olson for scrawling water-soluble anti-big bank messages on sidewalks (with a possible sentence of up to 13 years), is not new to prosecuting Occupy activists.
According to Dorian Hargrove, who has been doing a superbly detailed job of following this tragic farce of a pro-big bank anti-First Amendment crusade by a public prosecuter, Goldsmith's office was responsible for keeping a woman in jail for three days last year. Her "crime": she used chalk to write "Occupy San Diego" on a SD Civic Center wall. Hargrove offers this account:
The lawyer in that case, Jeremy Warren, says he remembers it much differently. Early last year, Warren defended a 19-year-old woman involved in the Occupy San Diego movement who was charged with vandalism for writing "Occupy San Diego" in chalk on a wall in the Civic Center plaza. The woman, who at the time went by the name Zenyatta, was arrested and transported to the Las Colinas Detention Facility. That's where she stayed for three days...
Warren, who defended the woman, remembers trying to strike a deal with the City.
"The City Attorney charged her with misdemeanor vandalism under the city’s municipal code," says Warren. "In trying to get them to dismiss the case, I was told in no uncertain terms that negotiations would be challenging because City Attorney Goldsmith was personally involved in the Occupy cases."
But there was no behemoth corporation like the Bank of America pushing for jail time and fines against the young woman as there is in the prosecution of Jeff Olson, now in jury deliberation. (We may know the "verdict" as early as Monday when the jury reconvenes).
So what we are seeing is a pattern here of protecting the plutocratic banks and public "walls and sidewalks" from Americans exercising their rights to dissent against the oligarchy.
BuzzFlash at Truthout has written two widely-read commentaries on the San Diego city attorney chalk prosecution on behalf of Bank of America: "Man Who Scrawled Chalk Protests on Sidewalk Against Big Banks Faces Possible Prison"; and "San Diego Judge Puts Unprecedented Gag Order on Sidewalk Chalk Protestor Trial."
On Friday night, we talked on the phone with Hargrove, who is the journalist with the most knowledge of the details of the Jeff Olson chalk prosecution case and how it evolved. Needless to say, the San Diego and 1% politics surrounding the prosecution are not occurring in isolation. Goldsmith, some speculate, will be once again taking big corporate money for a political campaign in the future, but this time perhaps to take on the first Democratic San Diego mayor in memory, Bob Filner (a former US Congressman). Filner has been an outspoken critic of the case and has expressed an understanding of the Occupy Movement in the past.
Goldsmith is aligned with the long-time conservative San Diego power structure that is under siege as San Diego has experienced a change in demographics that has been tilting it more Democratic.
What's important to remember about Goldsmith's office throwing the book at an Occupy protester (and not charging him for months after the fact -- and then only due to pressure on behalf of Bank of America) is that prosecutors have limited resources. They pick and choose the cases that they try based ideally on what best serves the public interest. In reality, at any level of prosecution, politics, clout and ambition often determine who is prosecuted in many different areas of the law.
Just look at the Department of Justice (DOJ), which chose not to fully investigate -- let alone prosecute -- the heads of the big banks that brought down the American economy.
Indeed, Salon had an article on June 28 detailing the claims of illegal conduct by the bank that figures prominently in the "persecution" of Jeff Olson by the city attorney of San Diego, the Bank of America.
The Salon report is entitled, "New Bank of America whistle-blower emerges: More customer abuse secrets: Bank of America whistle-blower details latest scheme to abuse homeowners, evade settlement rules and pocket cash."
Journalist David Dayen writes:
Last week, I detailed bombshell revelations from Bank of America whistle-blowers, in which former employees of the bank detailed systematic fraud and deceptive practices inside their loan modification department — including bonuses and Target gift cards for staff who racked up foreclosures.
Now, another new lawsuit, featuring a separate whistle-blower, contains additional remarkable revelations – and may shed light on Bank of America’s strategy in getting out from under the mountain of legal exposure and costs in which it now finds itself. Simply put, the bank seeks to pocket quick cash and evade practices set forth in major settlements – by cashing out of the subprime mortgage servicing business. The result would be to leave struggling homeowners back at square one, with even fewer protections to avoid foreclosure...
Bank of America’s reputation is already unsalvageable. But avoiding requirements they were forced to make to homeowners to compensate for an initial round of illegal practices, by selling the servicing rights off to fly-by-night organizations that specialize in abusing customers, just about takes the cake. And they’re profiting from it, too.
That is 1% oligarchical clout pure and simple, ripping off homeowners throughout America for profit, not getting prosecuted, but making sure that a guy who scrawled First Amendment protected opinions on public sidewalks faces trial.
Chalk that up to America's movement from a democracy to a plutocracy.