Duncan regrets flag-desecration incident, is investigating

Buncombe County Sheriff Van Duncan told the Xpress this afternoon that he regrets the turn of events surrounding the July 25 arrests of activists Mark and Deborah Kuhn on flag-desecration charges. Meanwhile, Xpress has learned the flag law was declared unconstitutional in a 1971 N.C. district court ruling.

“I regret that it happened this way — we’re not trying to enforce that statute,” Duncan said. “We had internal affairs investigators in the neighborhood today. I’ve met with the Kuhns personally. We’re talking to the District Attorney, we’re talking to their attorney and we’re trying to get this resolved.”

The Kuhns (who are pictured, post-arrest, at right) had hung an American flag upside down on the porch of their West Asheville home, and attached to it a picture of President Bush with the words “out now” and several messages explaining the meaning of their statement.

Sheriff’s Deputy Brian Scarborough received a complaint from fellow National Guardsman Staff Sgt. Mark Radford that morning. He proceeded to assert that the couple had violated a rarely enforced 1917 statute banning desecration of the U.S. flag. The Kuhns took the flag down and refused Scarborough’s request to present their IDs, closing and locking their door.

The Kuhns, along with witnesses and neighbors, assert that Scarborough then broke into the house and assaulted them. The sheriff’s office reports state that Mark Kuhn slammed the door on Scarborough’s hand, injuring him.

The couple was then arrested and charged with desecrating the flag, assaulting an officer and resisting arrest.

Duncan confirmed that the sheriff’s office usually passes nonemergency calls within the city to the Asheville Police Department, which had already visited the couple on July 18 and decided not to try to enforce the statute.

“We would normally not have handled the situation that way,” Duncan said. “We’re looking into it right now and trying to see how we can proceed to make sure an incident like this doesn’t happen again.”

Meanwhile, today Xpress learned that, in addition to U.S. Supreme Court decisions ruling that political uses of the flag are protected speech, North Carolina’s statute was declared unconstitutional in a 1971 ruling by the District Court of Western North Carolina. “Enacted during a period of national chauvinistic fervor, it [the flag-desecration law] is an uncommonly bad statute,” Circuit Judge James Craven Jr. wrote in the ruling. “Despite our respect, and indeed love, for these symbols of state and nation, we are compelled to hold the statute unconstitutional.”

For an in-depth report on the incident, which has sparked controversy in Western North Carolina and attracted national attention, see the Wednesday, Aug. 1, issue of Mountain Xpress. Visit www.mountainx.com for breaking news on the story.

— David Forbes, staff writer

photo by Jonathan Welch


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31 thoughts on “Duncan regrets flag-desecration incident, is investigating

  1. Sage

    Good for the Kuhns! The police should be ashamed of their Fascist tactics and the officer who assaulted these innocent citizens should be the one arrested!

  2. IWantMyCountyBack

    As should the knuckle draggers who applauded the tactics of this rogue thug.

    But they won’t be ashamed. They STILL think they are patriots.

  3. So will this be the end of the community out roar?

    Nonetheless the *national* guard interfered and thus community police caused harm on two innocents who were voicing their opinions held in dear light by the 1st Amendment – – – possibly the most American thing they could do since guess what folks, the nation is in a state of distress during a time of war.

    Ah well – kissy kissy and make up and it all goes away, right?

  4. Betsy Ross

    Once again, the 1st Amendment has been tested and assaulted and come through unscathed.

    Ah, the beauty of simplicity.

    But, like JBo above alludes to, the Scarborough/Kuhns incident is another wound festering in Asheville. It won’t go away on its own.

    It’s time for the PD to step up, apologize, and drop charges. Then, they and all the still-confused citizens should sign up for classes on the founding of this nation and its founding documents. Discussions and understanding will follow.

    And, maybe, if we’re all lucky, the Great Uniter, the Compassionate Conservative, the Decorated Vietnam Vet George W. Bush will go away to Paraguay (early), and let this nation heal.

    Impeach the Bush/Cheney/Gonzales Crime Family.

  5. Dionysis

    Restoring credibility in the Sheriff’s Department might require that this deputy, Brian Scarborough, be fired, and that his fellow ignoramus, Mark Raiford, be demoted to the jail cleaning crew.
    Duncan has an opportunity; it will be interesting to watch how he handles it.

  6. BlueBerry Pick'n

    Now THAT is democracy.

    but I have to ask: shouldn’t one wonder about the conditions under which the officer Scarborough *learned* such tactics & became ‘desensitized’ to this treatment??

    Imagine the North American response to this treatment
    many times amplified in Iraq: “Taxi To The Dark Side” – documentary trailer

    if we want ‘benchmarks’ perhaps we have to learn how to LIVE what we want to export…

    Spread Love…
    … but wear the Glove!

    BlueBerry Pick’n
    can be found @
    “We, two, form a multitude” ~ Ovid
    “Silent Freedom is Freedom Silenced”

  7. InfoSoldier

    All cynicism aside, I pray that the Kuhn’s are not targets of retribution. I have been paying attention to how local police forces are becoming more and more militarized and view the general public as enemy combatants. I myself, served in the Army and in Operation Desert Storm, and I think it’s a shame how some weekend warriors, esp those in law enforcement think they RULE this country and it’s citizens. Now as a civilian, I am quick to point out that they ARE NOT Authority. They ARE public servants being paid with tax payers money to protect and serve. I think we have a huge problem in this country and am afraid if people don’t wake up and demand accountability, this whole country is lost and destined to become a police state.

  8. David Myers

    InfoSoldier, I share your concerns about retribution. Sgt. Radford has had a MySpace page for over a year now here:


    He seems to be quite the tough guy.

    Someone using his rather unique alias, code4swat, has been posting some rather interesting things over on some of the Citizen Times forums. Some of that writer’s statements there are things which reasonable people likely would consider to be thinly veiled threats against the Kuhns and those who support them. I really hope that someone investigates this lead to determine if they are in any danger. It seems that many disturbed people are involved in this discussion.

  9. RingoStarchy

    David Myers

    That’s a very interesting connection you’ve found. I definitely think it’s worthy of exploration.

  10. xiii

    Why doesn’t National Guardsman Mark Radford have better things to do with his time? Is it the primary task of the National Guard in NC to protect the state’s fine citizens from being subject to other people’s free speech?

  11. xiii

    After looking at Radford’s MySpace page, I’d suggest to the fine officers of the Buncombe Co sherriff’s dept that they keep an eye on that guy. He ain’t right in the head.

  12. Andy O

    This is outrageous. Chasing people into their homes for exercising their right to free speech? It sounds like the Sheriff’s Department needs a remedial course in the US Constitution and freedom. They have soiled the Constitution with their actions.

    But, that just reminds us that conservatives just hate the US Constitution. We have a real authoritarian movement in this country where they want to suppress all dissent.

  13. DD

    What is happening in Ashville, NC? My wife and I visited in April. Things didn’t seem on the verge of out of control.

    Sheriff’s Deputy Brian Scarborough’s actions make me wonder if it’s the Sheriff or the freelancing national guard members who are in charge of the Sheriff’s office.

    Mark Radford’s MySpace information is just plain scary. How many more are there like this in the National Guard there?

  14. Dionysis

    It seems appropriate the Sheriff Duncan be made aware of Radford’s MySpace posting. I wonder if he knows he has an (apparently) extremist wacko on the payroll? He should.


    All those who don’t believe that we live in a police state – you can go back to sleep now! As for me – I do live in the real world and have personally witnessed dozens of lives and families that have been damaged by uneducated, untrained, and lawless law-enforcement.

    We were designed to be a nation of laws and not men. Our laws were never intended to allow for arbitrary and capricious actions by those that are charged with enforcing the laws. Even one of our most conservative congressmen and presidential candidates has used the term “police state” in describing the current state of affairs in this country; http://www.angelfire.com/az/sthurston/rppolicestate.html

    Law enforcement, in general, has become nothing more than armed gangs roaming the streets looking for trouble!

    There are literally thousands of laws that you are deemed to know – but as I have correctly stated here – cops are not required to know or even understand the laws that they are charged with enforcing.

    Even the Sheriff is stating that things should have been done different – OOOPS. I don’t hear him defending the deputy’s actions – why would you?

    Right is right and wrong ain’t nobody and what this deputy did was unlawful and illegal. Why are some of you defending this criminal?

    Not everyone that wears a uniform is a hero and not everyone that supposedly violates “THE LAW” is a criminal. Remember Henry David Thoreau was jailed for not paying taxes but now he is required reading in high school. Remember also that Martin Luther King Jr., Ghandi, Jesus and the Apostle Paul were wrongfully deemed to be criminals.

    The people in this story were merely exercising their God-given rights of freedom of expression and privacy. There was no damage done to either life or property or to another’s rights SO there was no crime committed and since there was no reasonable articulable suspicion held by the deputy that a crime had been committed there existed no lawful reason for his illegal actions – END OF STORY for those that understand!

    In the battle for Liberty,

  16. DD

    “Let’s reject the police state.”

    Ashville, NC has stumbled into being a test case. Will an OOOPS, jee, gosh, that was- kinda- sorta- misshandled be the way this issue goes away?

    “In a free society, the government’s job is simply to protect liberty — the people do the rest. Let’s not give up on a grand experiment that has provided so much for so many. Let’s reject the police state.” – Rep. Ron Paul, MD (U.S. House of Representatives, June 27, 2002)
    (Ron Paul’s quote from THE JAILHOUSE LAWYER’s link)

  17. This story is starting to look eerily similar to what is happening in our government. Ten years ago, the idea of a “police state” would have been fodder for a Steven Segal movie. However, the idea of a police state is now a much debated subject and weighs heavily on people’s minds.

    How does one figure that we are on the verge of martial law and a dictatorship? Just look at the movement towards the North American Union, http://www.spp.gov. Look at the U. S. Patriot Act, the National Presidential Directive, and The 2006 John Warner Military Commissions Act.

    Go to http://www.spp.gov and see what the government is up to and how they are denying what everyone is accusing them of on the site. Why have 19 states sent Congressional Resolutions through to try and stop this madness? For a broad outline of this scenario, go to http://www.stopthenau.org. Check out Dr. Daneen Peterson’s research on http://www.stopthenorthamericanunion.com and Dr. Jerome Corsi’s research on http://www.stopspp.com.

    Look at http://www.nascocorridor.com and http://www.keeptexasmoving.org. A lot of this explains why they were trying to pass the Amnesty Bill, in order to further promote the North American Union and open up our borders. The government wants to extend I-35 up through the middle of the United States, which will take a tremendous amount of property from people. But, do they care?

    9/11 may have been started by the Muslims, but the government sure jumped on this opportunity to enslave us with a bunch of draconian laws that sound like material out of George Orwell’s 1984. In the event of a catastrophe of any kind, we are currently set up for a “police state”. A person would have to live in a cave not to see this.

    We have a website, http://www.thefreedompage.org where we post articles and news. We also pay honor to the military. Our soldiers have fought, bled and died for our freedoms. The people that flew the flag as a distress signal have obviously seen what is going on and they, like others, are desperate to shout “We are in serious trouble”.

    The guy on MySpace is just a very good example of people who trust everything the government does and who turns a blind eye to trouble. That’s because he has his Smith & Wesson. People like him need to get their head out of the sand and wake up……this incident is just a small version of what could happen in the future.

    Norma W. Beaird
    The Freedom Page
    “Serving God and Supporting the Troops”

  18. Elizabeth

    I did not see or read where they steped on the flag. What I saw was the flag upside down. Which is symbol for, “We are in need of assistence!” Which in my small opinion is what this country is in desprate need of, HELP.

  19. Dionysis

    If anyone is sceptical of the reality of an emerging police state, courtesy of the despotic Bush regime, check out the very real experience of a seasoned journalist which has an Asheville/Homeland Security connection, read this:


    Those two deputies are just the local contingent of the incipient fascist, anti-American, authoritarian goon squads springing up like mushrooms.

  20. ubu

    “We’re looking into it right now and trying to see how we can proceed to make sure an incident like this doesn’t happen again.”

    Finding number 1 : Uphold the Constitution.

  21. silverman

    please please please send this cop to jail. fireing him is the least.

    militarized cops; just like the national guard they sent to new orleans after the ‘flood’ to ‘keep order’. they had come directly from iraq, where these kinds of tactics are taught.

    iraq is the training ground for the police state. i’n surprised they didnt put bags over the kuhns heads. at least they got out on bail. in iraq, the husband would have been shipped to guantanamo.

  22. Betsy Ross

    Mr. Scarborough should be fired.

    Impeach the Bush/Cheney/Gonzales Crime Family.

    It’s now CODE4SQUAT, people.

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