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Indiana man charged with burning U.S. flag

By The Associated Press


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NOBLESVILLE, Ind. — An Indiana man accused of burning an American flag behind his home has been arrested, despite rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court that have said flag-burning is an exercise of free speech.

David H. Stout, 49, of Noblesville was charged yesterday with flag desecration and resisting law enforcement. He was being held today at the Hamilton County Jail on a $9,000 bond.

Stout was arrested Sept. 30 after police found him lying beside a burning flag in an alley behind his home.

Indiana is among 48 states that still have a law against flag desecration on the books, even though the U.S. Supreme Court, both in Texas v. Johnson in 1989 and U.S. v. Eichman in 1990, determined flag-burning to be protected speech.

Stout told a neighbor who tried to stop the burning that he could burn his flag if he wanted. The neighbor called police.

Stout is accused of throwing a lighted firecracker at a police officer and struggling with police when they took him into custody.

Hamilton County Deputy Prosecutor Wendy Petersen filed the charges against Stout.

"Our particular statute has not been challenged," Petersen told The Indianapolis Star. "We still have flag desecration on the books, although we may certainly come up against that (constitutional) argument if we continue to prosecute Mr. Stout."

Both charges against Stout are misdemeanors carrying maximum penalties of three years in prison and a $5,000 fine upon conviction.

Petersen agreed that the surge of flag-waving since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks may have created a new sensitivity to flag desecration.

"I can't comment on what the officers were thinking at the time, but probably a report of flag-burning would be taken more seriously because of the environment," she said.


Flag-burning suspect ordered not to touch, handle or possess any U.S. flag
David Stout has been in Indiana jail since Sept. 30 arrest on misdemeanor charges of flag desecration, resisting law enforcement.  10.09.01


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Analysis Although U.S. Supreme Court has twice ruled that such laws violate First Amendment, 47 states keep statutes on the books and some keep enforcing them.  03.13.01

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