When Flag-Burning Isn't Protected

Friday, July 15, 2005

You'd have to be severely drunk to not mean to do this:

MARYVILLE, Tenn. - A teenager was jailed for nine days after being accused of burning an American flag on the Fourth of July, and he faces trial next month.

While the case could test a state statute against flag burning - an act the U.S. Supreme Court says is protected under the First Amendment - prosecutors said Andrew Elisha Staley has yet to argue that he was exercising free speech rights.

Staley, 18, is accused of taking the flag from a residence and setting it on fire. The teenager was released from jail Thursday on his own recognizance while he awaits his Aug. 2 trial on charges of desecrating a venerated object, underage drinking, littering, evading arrest, burning personal property and theft.

The Tennessee flag-burning statute makes the crime a misdemeanor, punishable by less than a year in jail and up to $2,500 fine.
The guy's father said he was drunk and would have no reason for burning the flag other than that he was under the influence. This statement might come back to bite Staley because now he has to argue that his flag burning is somehow free speech to be protected by the First Amendment.

Moreover, the guy also faces a bunch of other charges thrown at him. Perhaps he'll think twice about how he celebrates our nation's independence next year.