PORT TOWNSEND — A man describing himself as a free speech advocate who has been charged with violating city code will not serve time in jail if he doesn’t break any laws in the next year, a District Court judge ruled Wednesday.
Erik Olson, also known as Arhata Osho, received a 90-day suspended sentence and must pay $600 in attorney’s fees and $150 in court costs.
Judge Jill Landes of the Jefferson County District Court had handed down that sentence in December 2014 but deferred it for one year to allow time for Olson to appeal.
Olson was charged with violating the city sign code in a Pope Marine Park display on three occasions in 2014 — March 27, March 31 and June 18 — for which he was cited each time.
In December 2014, Landes could have imposed three 90-day, $750 sentences but rolled them all into one.
After Olson’s appeal was denied by Jefferson County Superior Court last year and the state Court of Appeals in January, Olson returned to court and Landes imposed the sentence, suspending jail time as long as Olson’s actions are within the law.
Bret Roberts, Olson’s attorney, said that regardless of the outcome, the process worked as intended.
“The litigants worked hard, they fought it, they went through an appeal and people were polite and cordial to each other,” Roberts said.
“The defendant was respectful and showed up when he was ordered to.”
Olson had harsh words about the process, calling it a “kangaroo court” and that the Bill of Rights “is just a piece of paper.”
“There is no free speech,” he said.
“This was a waste of taxpayers’ money.”
Olson said he will continue his display in Pope Marine Park across from City Hall in displaying whiteboard messages, many of which come to him during morning meditation sessions.
Port Townsend Prosecuting Attorney Chris Ashcraft said the suspended sentence began Wednesday.
Police said they issued Olson verbal warnings to comply with the ordinance’s limits, which restrict displays of signs to occupying an area no larger than 4 feet wide, 6 feet long and 5 feet high, and when he did not comply after a 20-minute period, Olson was cited.
On Wednesday, Olson said the situation was exacerbated by the city’s heavy-handed treatment of him; he said that if someone had just come out and talked to him, there would have been a compromise.
He carried a copy of the city’s sign code out of the courtroom, which he said he intended to read carefully.
The case was resolved in about five minutes.
________Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or email@example.com.