Charges dropped in flag-desecration case

NOTE: Reporter David Forbes will discuss the case at 6 p.m. this afternoon (Friday, Aug. 3) on the WCQS-88.1 radio program “Byline.”

All charges in the case of activists Mark and Deborah Kuhn, arrested on July 25 in an incident involving alleged flag desecration are being dropped, Buncombe County Sheriff Van Duncan announced this afternoon. An internal investigation of the arrests is continuing. (For the complete background, see the article “Flag Fight.”)

“We have conferred with the district attorney and are dropping the charges,” Duncan said. “We’ve reviewed the issue and the Supreme Court rulings in this matter are very clear, as is a 1971 North Carolina case deciding this [the flag desecration] statute unconstitutional. We don’t have a good charge here and it wasn’t proceeded with in the proper manner.”

He added that while the other charges in the case — two counts each of assaulting an officer and resisting arrest — “probably are prosecutable, we don’t feel the original charge was and we don’t feel it’s prudent to proceed with those.”

“Trying to proceed with them would only further this debate,” Duncan said. “We felt it in the best interest of the county and the people’s time and money to drop the charges.”

The Kuhns, who had hung an American flag upside down with several statements attached to it, were told by Sheriff’s Deputy Brian Scarborough (who had received a complaint from fellow National Guardsman Staff Sgt. Mark Radford) on July 25 that they were violating a rarely enforced 1917 state statute banning desecration of the state or national flags. They took the flag down and then refused Scarborough’s request for their I.D.

After that, the Kuhns and witnesses reported that they closed the door and locked it, and Scarborough proceeded to break the glass and unlock the door.

Scarborough and the Sheriff’s Office report instead claim that Mark Kuhn slammed the door on Scarborough’s hand, shattering the glass and injuring the deputy. Scarborough then entered the house and a scuffle ensued. The Kuhns were arrested.

The Asheville Police Department had received a complaint on July 18 and sent an officer to investigate, but decided not to press any charges.

Duncan said that his office expects to have a finding of fact in its investigation by next week. He said that internally he has taken action and the office will learn from the incident.

“We have taken corrective action in this case and we’re going to ensure that this situation doesn’t repeat itself,” Duncan said. “We should have been aware of the constitutional status of the law and we should have been aware that the city [police] had already visited the Kuhns.”

The flag, reported early by the Kuhns as taken by the deputies, was located in an evidence bag and, Duncan said, has since been returned to the couple.

— David Forbes, staff writer

photo by Jonathan Welch



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27 thoughts on “Charges dropped in flag-desecration case

  1. Concerned American

    Forget being a Democratic Republic -Americans, we are living in an oligarchy run by the select few with little influence by the voting citizenry, if any. The media, the police, and the IRS are the thugs that keep us in line.

    If peaceful dissent and commentary is all it takes to incite a Rambo-like rouge officer to break-in and assualt our citizens, imagine what will happen to us all when they really start turning up the heat on our civil and economic rights. We are in for some Soviet-style dark times ahead if the American citizenry does not come together to assert our Constitutional rights and the deference by Government to the will of the people.

    Those who are upset over the “desecration” of a symbol of our freedom (and the symbol may be all that’s left of freedom) won’t be so righteous when some other particular right of theirs is trespassed.

    Don’t be a good Republican, don’t be a good Democrat, be a good American and uphold the Constitution and the inalienable rights it assures us.

    Vote Ron Paul 08 and let freedom ring!

  2. Uh, the charges were dropped, and how would Ron Paul make us more free?

    Free from abortions?

    Free from debt?

    Sorry, I ain’t following ya, son.

  3. Buck

    This really is not a big deal. Brian Scarborough needs to be fired and all benefits taken away. No trained law enforcement officer would have allowed a situation like this to happen. Even Barney Fife would have done a better job handling this silliness. He is an insult to all the fine men and women in law enforcement.
    Buncombe County needs to pay those people for repairs to their home all of us an apology for hiring such a moron.

  4. Fred Smith

    “Sheriff Van Duncan says it would be very difficult to prosecute because of constitutional law.”

    Seems to be a left-handed insincere apology for blatant abuse of police power.

    We were on our way east from Tennessee when this came to light. We had planned to spend a few days visiting the area but elected to continue on the Raleigh / Durham as a direct result of this chilling development.

    Might take in the sights on the way back but only if there is substantive action to address the abusive actions of the local brown shirts.

    Otherwise we’ll make our return west via 85 through Atlanta. We have no vote/say in the local politics but we do have a say in where we and our grand kids visit.

    I recall bad memories on the way back from NAM in the 60’s at the hands of a cracker cop in Kiln Mississippi. That behavior was ruled unacceptable by the USSC then and it is even less so now.

    I don’t want to have to explain to my grand kids about the then or the now as they still believe this is a free country. Childhood innocence is a fragile and fleeting thing.

  5. Jeremy

    This guy is the modern Barney Fife. Andy kept Barney in line. One bad cop is one too many.

  6. DD

    A couple of questions seem to be hanging here. Was Deputy Sheriff Scarborough dispatched by the Sheriff’s Dept? Or, did he act solely on a complaint from fellow National Guardsman Staff Sgt. Mark Radford?

  7. Phantom

    Quote from Sheriff Duncan:

    He added that while the other charges in the case — two counts each of assaulting an officer and resisting arrest — “probably are prosecutable, we don’t feel the original charge was and we don’t feel it’s prudent to proceed with those.”

    “Trying to proceed with them would only further this debate,” Duncan said. “We felt it in the best interest of the county and the people’s time and money to drop the charges.”

    I want to know how the Sheriff thinks the other charges are “probably prosecutable” if the Kunh’s were simply acting in SELF DEFENSE!!! If this rogue NEANDERTHAL deputy had no right to approach or pursue the Kunh’s then they had every right to RESIST and FIGHT BACK!!

    Duncan needs to get his head screwed on straight and arrest Scarborough and prosecute him to the fullest extent of the law before he finds himself fighting a vote of NO CONFIDENCE and loses his own post. The people of Ashville should not just let this die on the vine as the sheriffs department is so clearly hoping for!!

    Citizens, Stand up and demand a vote of NO CONFIDENCE against Duncan if he fails to arrest and prosecute Scarborough!!!

    This department needs to be SHOWN not told who they are accountable to………THE PEOPLE!!!!

  8. Dionysis

    Based upon everything so far written about this disgraceful event, Scarborough took it upon himself to dispense some ‘justice’ against people who, while exercising their Constitutional rights, managed to offend his right-wing, anti-democratic ‘values'(self-described via his MySpace profile; the same with Radford). That alone should subject him to dismissal from the Sheriff’s department. Hopefully, the lawsuit against him will continue, resulting in the plaintiffs winning.
    And, given the reports of many people witnessing the situation supporting the Kuhn’s version (Scarborough went ballistic and broke down the door), it seems quite possible they will prevail. Good luck to them.

    Sheriff Duncan, eyes are on you now.

  9. nuvue

    Okay Okay
    Mistakes were made, people are not perfect. I think the action by Scarbough were objectional and he may have acted rather unruly…..but I also think Duncan is acting rationally and trying to defuse the situation.
    Maybe Mr. Scarbough will learn something by this, Give him his slap down and let him go on with life, otherwise he will become more aggressive and right wing, and do something dumber next time. (Rudolph??)
    Peace and harmony will not be achieved thru aggressive actions.

  10. Mr Mike

    I am a long time native and recognize this as another example of selective enforcement.

    If you’ve got a friend on the sheriff’s department all you have to do is call and get them to do the dirty work for you. I had a visit from a deputy today for a noise violation today because I ran off a neighbor cutting bushes on my landlord’s property Tuesday. Her daughter had “relations” with a couple of deputies before she divorced her previous husband and he was probably one of them.

    Another neighbor called the sheriff’s department on her grandson for breaking into my house for the third time and she had a grudge. It’s been the same here for years. It’s time for a change!

  11. Mr Mike

    i just checked the Buncombe County noise ordinance and the deputy that came to my house misrepresented the noise ordinance in favor of my neighbor and threatened to write me a ticket. If that ain’t selective enforcement nothing is. It was during the day and my other next door neighbors didn’t have any trouble with my stereo and the people that called the sheriff’s department (the neighbors I had a conflict with) were the only ones that had trouble with the stereo, yet he still offered to write me a ticket. Something wrong? I think so.

  12. You are right Mr. Mike, I think that there is a lot wrong with people using the Sheriff’s Department to further personal agendas. It’s almost as wrong as someone using the MountainX website to settle petty personal issues, or blatant self-promotion.

  13. These are the possible charges I’ve come up with so far:

    – Breaking and Entering (front door unlocked thru broken window)
    – Damage to Property (broken window)
    – Assault with a Weapon (baton and taser)
    – Theft (for stealing flag)
    – Unlawful Detention (for illegal arrest)
    – Abuse of Power (for assault “under color of authority”)
    – Obstruction of Justice (for false testimony)

  14. GB

    I wonder if anyone has ever done a study to determine how often cops lie.

  15. Franklin

    Seems like your local cops are doing the enemy’s work for them. They must hate America.

  16. lunchbox

    I think it’s great that this yahoo deputy thought that he was doing the right thing by stopping this “attack on the flag” and making them take it down. Now everyone knows about these folks and the picture of their flag has been everywhere. Does anyone know if this was picked up nationally?

  17. Brian Miller

    It sure has been picked up nationally. Here in the Silicon Valley, in California, there’s been extensive discussion of it on radio talk shows and also discussion forums in local politics rooms.

    The consensus, from Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Greens and independents alike is that something smells funny in Asheville, NC’s justice system. Also, that this is yet another alarming example of the creeping violation of our personal liberties that have become all-too-common since 2001 and the creation of the Bush Administration’s police powers.

    Eventually, the people of this country will have a decision to make — are we servants of the government, or is the government a constitutionally-limited servant of the people?

  18. DonM

    Other than the usual left-leaning blogspots and associated talk radio, this incident is a local incident. It isn’t a national issue and one can search the internet and see that.

  19. bluegrassbrad

    Search the internet for “Asheville flag arrest” and see what it brings up. 136,000 hits. I got through page 20 of the search and it is still bringing up direct references to this incident. When web pages like Digg and The Daily Kos pick up stories they get a lot of exposure. The bloggers are all over this story, and as politicians have figured out over the last few years, news spread through the blogdom can be very powerful. In this new age of information people realize that major news sources are not sources for reliable news and are turning to other sources, like blogs.

  20. DonM

    A lot of one-sided exposure. Did I read correctly that you consider blogs to be reliable news sources? Blogs are derivitives from the news sources, often third, fourth, fifth level derivitive or even further down the pipeline. You remember an old game where you take 10 people and begin by saying to the first one a certain sentence or two, then having that person relate it to the next, who then does the same to the next until we come to the last person who now tells the group what the original message was?

    It’s always wrong!

  21. bluegrassbrad

    So I take it that means you consider major news sources like NBC, CBS, Fox, etc to be reliable, unbiased, news sources? There have been many cases where these “major” sources dont pick up a story until it’s been blogged for several days. I dont consider them any more reliable.

  22. DonM

    I did not say “reliable, unbiased” sources. Just because of the sheer resources they have that they are more likely to have information that’s closer to the source rather than forth-order deriviative info. And by many you mean 10, 50, 100? Out of the 1000’s of daily stories available worldwide, it is always welcomed to get a few more.

    I do stand by my first sentence (fragment LOL!) “A lot of one-sided exposure.” And that cuts both ways.

  23. Ryuuko

    A state of war only serves as an excuse for domestic tyranny.

    ~Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

  24. Ryuuko

    As an Infantry veteran, I say let them fly the flag upside down.
    I say let them burn it.
    When these things are done to a symbol which I hold dear, when I find myself trembling in anger that I dare not do anything to them lest I violate the very principles which my brothers and those before me bled and died for, then I know that we have performed our duties faithfully and well. It is that which the flag is supposed to represent that I care about, not the flag. All of you who slap yellow ribbon magnets on the backs of your minivans, who are enraged by the thought of the “desecration” of a piece of cloth made in China by political slave labor need to understand this (though I doubt you will, as most of you wouldn’t know freedom if it jumped up and bit you in the arse.) The flag is a symbol of the principle of liberty. IT IS NOT THE PRINCIPLE ITSELF.
    When you fly the flag upside down as a form of political protest, you honor the principle that it stands for, and you give meaning and value to those who gave their lives in defense of that principle.
    And when you terrorize those who exercise their right to free speech, you give power to those who hate this nation. You give power to our domestic enemies of the Constitution. You justify the PATRIOT Act, TSA, the Department of Homeland Security, and every other hateful piece of tyrannical legislation, put forth by every liberty-hating scum-of-the-earth legislator since 9/11. And you yourselves become domestic enemies of the Constitution.

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