The 75-year-old Army veteran who was charged with a crime when he hung two napkin-sized American flags on the fence of a Veterans Affairs facility in Los Angeles has been acquitted.
The federal misdemeanor count against Robert Rosebrock comes from a federal statute that prohibits the posting of materials or placards on federal property without authorization.
What Happened? On Memorial Day last year, Rosebrock was cited for displaying two napkin-sized American flags on a fence near the “Great Lawn Gate” entrance to a VA park. He had done this every Sunday and Memorial day to protest the VA’s poor care of veterans, particularly homeless vets.
What was the ruling? In a bench trial (which doesn’t have a jury), U.S. Magistrate Judge Steve Kim found Rosebrock not guilty of the violation – which carried a six-month prison sentence. The judge found that not only was no evidence presented that Rosebrock did not have permission to display the flags, there was no evidence he actually put the flags there in the first place, NBC Los Angeles is reporting.
NBC Los Angeles: 75-Year-Old Vet Acquitted of Illegally Hanging Napkin-Sized Flags at West LA Veterans Affairs Office
Judicial Watch: Court Finds 75-Year-Old Los Angeles Veteran Robert Rosebrock Not Guilty of Federal Crime for Displaying American Flags above Veterans Administration Fence
My News LA: U.S. Army Veteran acquitted of illegally displaying flags at LA Veterans Affairs facility
What was the courtroom like? There were about two dozen observers in the courtroom, including homeless activist Ted Hayes, dressed as Uncle Sam. Military veteran Gene Simes, national chairman of a Rochester, New York-based veterans advocacy group, stood in uniform at attention with a folded flag under his arm during the proceeding.
When the judge announced his ruling, the gallery broke out in applause.
Outside the courtroom, Rosebrock said that he was “honored that the flag was exonerated — and for once the veterans got a victory.”
Rosebrock faced other charges. Rosebrock initially faced two additional counts for allegedly taking unauthorized photos of a VA police officer at the VA’s Great Lawn Gate without permission.
However, in a pretrial decision, Kim ruled that the regulation, as applied to the Great Lawn, was not reasonable under even the most lenient First Amendment standard.
The VA’s argument was that the statute was necessary to protect veterans’ privacy, but the judge rejected that argument, saying if the VA wanted to protect veterans’ privacy, it would ban all photography, not just photography for news, commercial or advertising purposes.