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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Flying Flag Upside Down Results in Criminal Charges in Washington Township

Washington Township police officer Scott E Miller filed criminal charges on June 11, 2007 against a Washington Township man for insulting the American flag. Easton lawyer Gary Asteak asks me the following question: "How the hell do you insult the American flag? What do you do, walk up to it and start cursing?"

The following are excerpts from Officer Miller's lengthy affidavit of probable cause:

On May 30, 2007, this officer spoke with complainant, ... who wanted to report an individual who was flying the American Flag upside down.

[The complainant] had been driving ... with her family, which included four children and husband Scott, who is currently serving active duty with the Army. [Complainant] went on further to state that she comes from a military family and this was a very disturbing and insulting revelation that her family had observed, ie The American Flag flying upside down.

This officer advised her that this officer would speak to [the Defendant] and request that he remove the flag and/or fly it properly. On May 30, 2007, at approximately 1100 hrs., this officer went to [Defendant's] residence of which nobody was at home. This officer obtained three digital photos of The American Flag flying upside down on the property ... for report/investigative purposes.

This officer then left a phone message for [Defendant] in regard to the upside down US Flag. Shortly thereafter, [Defendant] returned the phone call leaving a voice message for this officer. [Defendant] indicated on the message that his purpose for flying the flag upside down is due to this country (USA) being in distress due to President Bush, Nancy Pelosi and all the other democratic politicians. He further stated that he would not remove the flag or fly it properly.

This officer then contacted [Complainant], and advised her of what [Defendant] had said. She requested this officer to further investigate the matter and determine if any charges could be pursued against [Defendant]. She was informed that this officer would look into the matter further.

June 9, 2007---After researching the above information, this officer concluded that [Defendant] is in violation of The PA Crimes Code, ... Insults to National or Commonwealth Flag. This officer also researched the Flag Code ... . Specifically [the Flag Code] states: The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property. It further notes that this pertains to active duty personnel.

Upon obtaining this information, [Complainant] was asked if she wanted to pursue the matter further as the complainant in criminal charges being filed against [Defendant]. [Complainant] indicated that she and her husband, Scott wanted to pursue the matter and they would complete a written statement to the facts of the case. This officer received this written statement on June 11, 2007.

June 11, 2007 @ 1600hrs.---This officer contacted [Defendant] and advised him of the written complaint ... . He was once again asked to either remove the flag or fly it properly, or he may be subject to criminal actions based upon this officers' investigation. [Defendant] stated he is flying the US Flag upside down because our country is in distress due to the politicians and that it is not personally against our troops in Iraq. He was informed that although the upside down flag is an accurate form of distress for active military personnel, him flying it upside down due to his anger over the current administration is not the proper form of the flag flying upside down, and that his actions are criminal in nature. [Defendant] then advised this officer to do what was necessary and if need be, he will take this matter to the US Supreme Court, because he will not take it down or fly it properly.

June 11, 2007 @ 1630hrs.---[Defendant] came to WTPD and requested a copy of the US Flag Code ... along with a copy of PA Crimes Code section 2103 ... .

June 12, 2007---This officer obtained four photos of the upside down US Flag that resides on the property of [Defendant], which borders the public roadway. While photographing the flag, [Defendant] came out and spoke to this officer. He was still refusing to remove the flag or fly it properly. Therefore, [Defendant] was advised that charges will be filed again him.

And so they were. On June 21, 2007, this Washington Township resident was charged with a second degree misdemeanor. He retained Gary Asteak, and was ready to slug it out in court. But the DA was not. He dumped the case. Good for him.

Instead of spending all his time reading the Crimes and Flag Code, he should take a gander at this thing called the First Amendment. It's not too long and doesn't contain any big words. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Now he can return to harassing skateboarders.


Aphrodite's daughter said...

I think the man has a right to express his opinion. I don't like it when people perform acts that desecrate it, such as burn it, but I would agree that the politicians have done a pretty good job of abusing what the Flag represents, wouldn't you? On that criteria, President Bush and his friends should be cited. Doesn't this officer have other things to do?

Greendogdem said...

Why the ship of state is going down i think it's pretty approperate

Anonymous said...

Our free marketplace has done more to deingrate the flag for profit, than this gentleman did to use it as a symbol of his freedom. God bless the troops. Let us not confuse that with God bless our Republic. Enough with misplaced anger. Damn, I can't believe we are reliving this crap . I though after Vietnam we would figure it out.

Anonymous said...

We should follow the lead of other states and ban flags made in China. All flags should be made here. Maybe then we can worry about flying the flag wrong.

Chris Casey said...

They will be waving those flags tonight over in Stabler! Newt is in town, making an IMPACT!
I thought about going, but no way I was buying a ticket.

Anonymous said...

That's just F'ked up!!!

Bernie O'Hare said...


Blah Society said...

From Chuck Shepherd's News Of The Weird:

"In May, a jury in Weld County, Colo., declined to hold Kathleen Ensz accountable for leaving a flier containing her dog's droppings on the doorstep of U.S. Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, apparently agreeing with Ensz that she was merely exercising free speech."

Now, if someone can't get away with something like that, I say fly the flag any damn way you please!

Anonymous said...

Hang the bastard upside down for a few days.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Spoken like a real Amerikan.

All you need now are a pair of shiny boots.

Anonymous said...

Plain and simple; upside down it's a distress call. Otherwise, it's akin to yelling "fire". If you yell 'fire' because there is one, that's a distress call. If you yell 'fire' in a crowded theater, that is not a distress call nor is it protected under the 1st Amendment.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Brian, This is most certainly protected speech. That's the opinion of the NC District Attorney. That's what the supremes say. And attempts to enact a flag desecration amendment have never made it out of the US Senate. This question isn't even close. It's hard to believe that a police officer had the time to take repeated pictures, make three trips, and take all those goofy sttatements.

Anonymous said...

No it's not, flying an upside flag is a distress call. How is calling distress when you are not in danger protected by the 1st Amendment?

"SEC. 4 That no disrespect should be shown to the flag the United States of America; the flag should not be dipped to any person or thing. Regimental colors, State flags, and organization or institutional flags are to be dipped as a mark of honor.

(a) The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property. "

No where in the code does it say that the flag is a tool to be used if you're pissed off about something and just can't express your First Amendment rights in any other manner.

Bernie O'Hare said...


A person who flies his flag upside down is making a statement. And yes, he's claiming there is acute distress. In this case, the defendant claims there is distress in this country. Thaty expression obviously annoyed the serviceman's wife, as well as the cop. But that's the whole point of the first amendment. It's there to annoy. And the first amendment trumps the Flag Code. You can't ban speech, which takes many forms, by legislating against it. That principle is so strong in this country that we still have no censorship. A newspaper can publish whatever it wants. it pays the price if it is wrong or seditious, but it can't be banned. In this case, the statute in question is vague and would never get past the magistrate. Believe me, this one's not even close.

Anonymous said...

If we continue with the language of Sec. 4, I call on the U.S. Atty General to prosecute every Company that has manufactured American Flag Bandanas, headbands, underwear, g-strings, well you get the picture. Is that free enterprise or disrespect. God I hate when I see that crap, but its legal, albeit tacky.
I agree with Brians argument to the point that if someone sat off the Jersey Coast with an upside down American Flag hoisted one could assume it was a distress call and by creating the rsulting chaos of a rescue, the crafts operator could be cited. Having said that, we must always view matters with a sense of perspective and reason. I think the policeman went beyond reason and it appears even the DA, ever ready for a media pop, agreed.

Your much less than obedient servant,

Sir Dude

LVDem said...

If the police officer went to the house to investigate a distress call, you would have a claim her Brian. But that's not why he went there and the report even says it. He went there specifically to investigate somebody not flying the flag properly. When asked why, the man responded that he was using it for political speech. Speech is protected by the constitution.

This would be vastly different if the officer went there to see if everything was okay, found everything to be fine and then introduced the idea that this is akin to yelling "fire" and that he would appreciate from a public safety standpoint that the flag not be flown in such a manner. But he didn't, the nature of the police report eliminates in this TWP any possible future claims that this might be possible.

The facts of this case don't support the claim Brian.

Anonymous said...

I believe this man has a right to his opinion, however, I can understand why the woman and her husband are upset. If my spouse was over in Iraq fighting for our country I would be very upset with this display of the flag. I also know that everyone has a right to express their opinions. I really admire this man for standing his ground and refusing to give in to the numerous requests to remove the flag. To pursue criminal charges against this man because he is expressing his opinion is outrageous. This whole Iraq thing sucks but I am still proud of those who are fighting for us. They need our support regardless of our opinions of the war. They are in Iraq and it is what it is so let's do whatever we can for them. I think this woman should focus her anger on why her husband is even in Iraq. I am sure she has more important issues she needs to focus on like taking care of her children alone while her husband is over there. Maybe she should focus on bringing him home to the United States where he belongs, safe and with his family.

J. SPIKE ROGAN said...

BTW Asteak is a real asshole as well. I ran into him at the college hill wawa a few weeks ago. He drove like a jackass into the parking lot, didn't hold the door for a women whom was right behind him. (She was nice enough to hold the door for me even though I weas much further away than she was to cowboy asswad).

He then cut off a person with many items to pay first so he could stand over the deli counter and belittle the workers there they were not working fast enough making his freaking Hoagie.

He too can take his little cowboy hat and shove it where the sun don't shine.

Any grown man whom wears a cowboy hat with a suit and is not in NASCAR is a freaking Jackoff.

Just for the record thank you.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone realize that the police officer was just following up on a complaint given to him? He was plain and simply doing his job. I'm sure if any of you called the police to make a complaint, and the police officer took that complaint, then... based on his own judgement and beliefs, didn't think it was valid and did not follow up on it, you all would have something else to bitch about. Who knows how Officer Miller personally feels, but the law is the law! We should be grateful that we have officers that follow up on all complaints, wheather you or I agree with such complaint. Kudos to Officer Miller!

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 1:25,

I a front page ET news account today, your question is answered. Officer Miller was personally offended, and said so.

Anonymous said...

Okay, so he has a personal connection being that his brother has served 3 tours in Iraq, but still doesn't change the fact that there is a law that supports the charges filed against Yarmus.

J. SPIKE ROGAN said...

Plenty of folks as cops to do things and they don't because they lack merit (Like his!)!

This is just some NRA voting Jackoff FOP member whom needs to remnove his head from his ARSE!

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 2:35,

Don't worry about Spike. Once he eats, he'll be ok.

Do you honestly think Officer Miller's brother served 3 tours in Iraq to defend the Flag Code. There is a much higher law, the Bill of Rights. First among these is the right to express yourself freely. Any law interfering with that right is unconstitutional.

I'm sure Officer Miller acted in good faith.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised at the number of people who slept through government class. You can make any law you want (like the one this officer wasted his time looking for) and it can't be upheld if it violates the Constitution.

That's why so many conservatives were pushing for the Flag Desecration Amendment because it's the only way to get around that pesky first amendment.

I can totally understand why seeing the inverted flag upset Ms. Miexsell, and I wish people would find a better way - one that didn't upset our soldiers - but part of what makes our country strong is being allowed to express our displeasure in what our government is doing.

I couldn't agree more with the anon who pointed out the amount of crap sold with our American flag on it. Want to celebrate the fourth of July? Here are some paper plates with the flag on them! When you're done with your greasy fired chicken and potato salad, just toss the American flag plate into the trash can. Here's a red white and blue napkin to wipe your face!

Those are usually bought by those who are Really Really Proud to be an American. Probably the same yuks who get their 'facts' from Fox News - who makes it a habit of putting the American Flag in the background of their newscasts. Where is the outrage then?

Anonymous said...

Question... Is Mr. Yarmus in distress? Okay, maybe he disagrees with the government, but there are Men and Women dying every day in order to protect our freedoms. Flying the flag upside down is a Military symbol for those in distress, not for some guy to make a statement. If he has such a problem, make a sign, post it in his yard. 90% of the people who have driven past his home probably have no idea what that meant. The only thing they probably say to one another in the car is "that idiot has his flag hung on the pole wrong." We should all be grateful to live in this great country, if he has a problem with our government he should move to another country! God bless the Troops.

Anonymous said...

" . . . if he has a problem with our government he should move to another country!"

Ugh. What makes our country so GREAT is that we can personally EXPRESS disagreement with what our government is doing.

It's true that Mr. Yarmus could have handled it in a more constructive way, but I hate it when people tell others to 'just move' when they are simply expressing disgust at how our elected officials are running things.

I'd rather have a dozen people fly the flag upside down or even burn it than one person who turns a blind eye just because they think to disagree is un-American.

Anonymous said...

Well then, maybe Mr.Yarmus should run for an elected position to make a change. It so easy for people like you to sit at home and make comments. Give me a break...get a job! I'm sorry I'm sure you are going to say being a housewife is a job, but ask your husband how many bills your "job" pays. Shouldn't you be getting dinner ready about now :)

Bernie O'Hare said...

LVHW, Please don't answer that ignorant sexist, who has convincingly persuaded me he is an idiot who has to start taking personal shots when he loses an argument.

Tania said...

Army Wife Tania Meixsell,
Let me set something straight right since everybody seems to have there opinion about a very dedicated and outstanding police officer who went above and beyond. This officer like our service men puts his life on the line everyday for basically the same reason our service men and woman do. This complaint about the flag was something that I believe in very strongly and he was doing his job. And guess what so was i as a wife and as a patriot. I am almost positive that our service men and woman didn't think that when they went to war to fight for our country that they were fighting so that people they thought supported them, didn't by flying there flag upside down. This is the whole point of this showing our support. These troops are over there doing there job and a damn good one at that. I am astounded by how many of you have forgotten the meaning of the flag and what it stands for. And as for me and my children we are doing just fine and I do take very good care of them with the support of our family and patriots like Officer Scott Miller.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, you should know by now that I find such comments amusing. I am not embarrassed to be a housewife. My 'job' doesn't pay the bills, but by not working, my husband is allowed to focus on his career, and I've got more time to spend with the little ones instead of taking them to daycare. Works for me and the rest of my family, and that's all that matters.

I find it comical that this anon's 'solutions' include telling those who don't like it to either move or run for public office. Now that's really practical!

I don't just 'sit at home and make comments.' I've personally been involved in making change locally on a variety of subjects by attending meetings, writing letters to the editor, distributing petitions, writing my congresspersons, etc.

But if you think sitting on your thumbs and nodding your head at everything your elected officials do makes you feel like a Proud American, then knock yourself out.

Anonymous said...

Mrs. Meixsell,

First, let me say that I greatly respect what our servicemen and police officers do for our country. They are for the most part, very brave and unselfish people to take jobs that put their lives on the line daily.

As I said earlier, I can understand why seeing the flag hung improperly would upset you. It would me, too. There's no disputing that Mr. Yarmus could have demonstrated his disgust in a more constructive manner - one that didn't insult the very people who serve to protect our freedoms.

Having said that, though, to make a law that limits our free speech undermines what our flag stands for.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Tania, Do you think that because you are an army wife, that makes you some super patriot? Listen, I'm a vet myself, and my daughter is in basic training right now.

I know what that flag stands for. Do yourself a favor and read that Bill of Rights. That's what that flag stands for. It doesn't stand for a world in which we report each other to the police for every little thing.

And incidentally, the suggestion that only active duty military personnel can fly a flag upside down, is ludicrous. I happen to be a sailor, and that's one of the things we do when a boat is in trouble. It's been that way for centuries. Miller needs to read a little more before he makes arrests and violates civil rights. The act of flying a flag upside down is an accepted practice and not confined to the military, as that goofy cop seems to think.

GW likes to tell you we're fighting for freedom. This is what he means. In a free society, we have the right to express ourselves, and expression takes many forms. In a police state, we have snitches who report unloyal citizens to the police, and they take pictures and make arrests.

You make your husband's service meaningless with your ridiculous rant. If it makes you unhappoy to see that people are allowed to express themselves freely, you can start a movement to repeal that pesky first amendment. But that's the way it is. That's the real American way. And those are the ideals your husband is sworn to protect.

Anonymous said...

If It was a confederate flag you couldent tell if it was upside down.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Bum, Actually, you could! What you're thinking about is the confederate battle flag, also called the southern cross or cross of St. Andrew.

The true confederate flag is known as the "stars and bars." You could tell if it was displayed upside down.

tania said...

I do not make my husbands service meaningless he stands behind me a hundred percent and so do all the men and woman that serve with him in his unit. I also thought alot more of this country would to. I guess it shows how much we have lost in this country not just men and woman who are fighting for this country in the war but I think we have lost something much more. What it means to be patriotic. This will be the last blog I wright. There is nothing more to say I did what I thought was right and I stand behind the charges I filed with the help and support of my family and Officer Miller, and i will continue to stand behind what I have started but I know longer have to subject myself to a bunch of very close minded people who just want to slander someone for sticking up for this country and the lives that have been lost so bravely fighting for it, and not just for our freedom of speech but so that we could fly our National Symbol the way it was intended high, strong, and proud

Bernie O'Hare said...

Tania, Don't worship the flag, but revere what it stands for, and that includes the right of free speech.

Anonymous said...

The best way to support the troops would be to impeach George Bush. It is clear most of them are either being held in the miltary against their will, or have been brainwashed by what seems to be a cultish atomosphere created by the Bush adm, revolving around evangical christian principal and harrasment of soilders, and forcing the soliders to lie to the public.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, Here is some freedom of speech for you...Get a life! Maybe this weekend we can all get together an piss on the flag then see who can burn their flag first. Freedom of speech is one thing, but to use the flag as a politcal statement is wrong. Many men and women have died for that flag and our freedoms and I'm sure if they were alive today they would not support Mr. Yarmus

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 11:36,

Then you obviously don't understand the Constitution and don't know what that flag symbolizes. It's not that cloth, but the ideal it represents, that matters. I'd argue that little snitches and cops who take 7 pictures are more offensive to our nation's ideals than some libertarian who is trying to make a statement. It's funny, because the same kind of flag flap we had here occurred in Boulder Co just yesterday, and with the same result.

Anonymous said...

you should tell that to Bush he seems to do it all the time.

Anonymous said...

NO what makes her husband's service meaningless is the President he is serving under. I find the arguement because 3600+ soldiers died it's justified to get more of them killed. So the prior dead ones didn't die invane. Killing more people in a pointless war that is truely going no where reguardless of the endless lies the generals telling and yes the Generals are lying to the American public to keep this going.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 11:55, I am unaware of any basis for the assertion that any American general is "lying." You want to say the war is pointless? Fine. You want to blame Bush? Have at it. But I have not read anything anywhere that calls our military into question the way you just did. Perhaps you can enlighten us or withdraw the remark.

Anonymous said...

Lets see casey spent months and maybe years telling the american public that everything in iraq was fine when it clearly wasn't. Pace more or less last week insisted how well things were going when it wasn't true. Then we have Lynch and Petras more or less running a full scale propganda campaign of lies and half truths about how things are actually going in iraq based on what is being reported and our past experience with these type of claims of sucess. Finally we had Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno who slipped up saying November because that's what he was actually trying to do was kick the review can down to november instead of giving the report in Sept then lied to the media and the public that he was misunderstood. So I won't take it back the miltary has been lying to the public all through the war.

Anonymous said...

Mrs. Meixsell,

I disagree that I am being close-minded on this issue. Per the Morning Call you yourself said "the flag is a symbol of the sacrifices made to preserve the liberties and ideals behind the founding of the country."

One of those liberties is Freedom of Speech.

As I've said repeatedly, I do not agree with the form of expression that Yarmus chose. But, it's clearly his right to do so, and to limit those rights would be something I'd expect in Saddam ruled Iraq, not here in America.

Anonymous said...

The people who are upset about Mr. Yarmus' about Mr. Yarmus' maltreatment of the flag might be interested in this link here:


It shows President Bush signing American flags while on his campaign tour in July 2003.

I believe that violates Section 8 of the Flag Code:
(g) The flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing of any nature.

Here's another picture, this time with President Bush standing on the flag, which also violates the Flag Code:


(b)The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground...

These are both examples of disrespect for the flag, but I doubt President Bush's blatant self-promotion under the guise of patriotism upsets the Miexsells or Officer Miller as much.

river said...

hey at least Joe is flying the flag. How many others have the flag waving every day?

Anonymous said...

I'm disgusted by those (apparently many of them) who can't seem to find a way to voice their "free speech" without insulting this country and so many who have laid their lives down defending it! If, as they claim, they are not protesting against the country, than these bright people surely could think up some way to protest without degrading our flag. You ARE protesting against the politicians and NOT the country, right? But if someone insists that flying the flag upside-down is their right under free speech than I'm sure they just as wholly support those who disagree, in their right to drive up Molasses Road (leaving Ackermanville and on the right side) in shouting whatever they choose out their window, or blowing their horn (not honking, just holding it down) in protest. After all, that is free speech too! Finally, to those who criticize a police officer for doing his job--I'm sure you won't mind when he doesn't pursue your complaint against someone for doing something like throwing his garbage on your lawn. After all, it's petty, and no one would really be hurt in any way. Or will it matter all of a sudden because it's something that offends YOU directly?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 5:41,

You were ok up until the point when you suggested (after giving detailed directions) that people start throwing garbage on Yamrus' lawn. That's a solicitation to vandalize Yamrus, and is iteself criminal. Your suggestion that the officer not enforce this law is obstruction, and that is aslso criminal.

You picked the wrong time of the week to solicit criminal behavior. I've logged your IP and ISP and on Monday, I will forward it to the District Attorney. In the meantime, I suggest you pray no one vandalizes Yamrus' property. Unlike Yamrus, your speech is not protected by the first amendment.

I allow people to post anonymously, but that gives you no license to solicit criminal behavior.

Anonymous said...

B.O., a lawyer you are not (though that is rather obvious to anyone reading here.)

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 10:46,

I guess Morganelli is no lawyer either. Neither is Gary Asteak. I guess Officer Miller should be DA and you should be judge and we can all goosestep around the flagpole.