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Koster seeks reinstatement of flag desecration law

By JIM SALTER

Associated Press

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster is asking a federal appeals court to reinstate Missouri’s law prohibiting desecration of the American flag, which a federal judge struck down last year.

Koster filed an appeal on Jan. 10 to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. A hearing date has not been set.

Frank Snider III of Cape Girardeau was arrested in 2009 for cutting up an American flag and throwing it into the street, blaming the country for his inability to find a job. The case was later thrown out, but Snider was jailed for about eight hours.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit on behalf of Snider, claiming violation of his right to free speech. U.S. District Judge Carol Jackson issued a permanent injunction in March prohibiting the state, its political subdivisions and officials from “enforcing or threatening to enforce” the law. In December, she awarded Snider $7,000 in damages.

Nanci Gonder, a spokeswoman for Koster, said Tuesday that Missourians have a strong sense of patriotism and don’t want to see the flag burned or mutilated.

“As Attorney General Koster said at the time of the initial ruling, while we understood that defending the statute was an uphill battle, most Missourians have a strong reaction against flag desecration,” Gonder said in a statement. “Our defense of the statute was our attempt to give voice to that patriotic sentiment.”

Snider’s attorney, Tony Rothert, called the appeal disappointing and said the ACLU will continue to fight against it, noting that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the late 1980s that a nearly identical law was unconstitutional.

“I understand people have strong feelings about the flag, but there’s nothing patriotic about infringing on First Amendment rights,” Rothert said.

Snider was standing in his front yard in October 2009 when he tried to set fire to the flag. When that failed he used a knife to shred it.

A neighbor called police and told the dispatcher, “He’s cut the United States flag up with a knife, throw’d it out in the street for the cars to run over. Now, I am a United State citizen and I don’t like it.”

A police officer issued a citation for littering and after learning of the state statute prohibiting flag desecration arrested Snider on that charge.

Cape Girardeau County prosecutors dismissed the charge against Snider after learning of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling deeming Texas’ flag desecration law unconstitutional.

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