Couple Arrested For Flying Upside Down U.S. Flag
Asheville – A couple who said they were protesting the state of the country by flying the U.S. flag upside down with signs pinned to it found themselves in jail following a scuffle with a deputy Wednesday morning.
Mark and Deborah Kuhn were arrested on two counts of assault on a government employee, resisting arrest and a rarely used charge, desecrating an American flag, all misdemeanors. The Kuhns were released from custody Wednesday afternoon.
“This is surreal,” Deborah Kuhn, 52, said moments after her son Mark Stidham paid $1,500 bond to get the couple out of jail.
Arrest reports show Buncombe County Sheriff’s deputy Brian Scarborough went to the Kuhns’ home on 68 Brevard Road about 8:45 a.m. Wednesday to investigate a complaint of an American flag on display after being desecrated.
State law prohibits anyone from knowingly mutilating, defiling, defacing or trampling the U.S. or North Carolina flags. Lt. Randy Sorrells of the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office said the Kuhns desecrated the flag by pinning signs to it, not by flying it upside down.
An upside-down flag typically is flown as a distress signal. The Kuhns said they flew it this way not out of disrespect but to symbolize the state of the country.
Deborah Kuhn said the signs pinned to the flag included an explanation on the meaning of an upside-down flag and asked to “help our country.” One of the signs was a photo of President Bush with “Out Now” written on it, they said.
The couple flew the flag for about a week before Wednesday.
Asheville police calls for service records show an officer did go to the house July 18 after a complaint about the upside-down flag. The officer did not issue a citation or file a report.
A couple of days later, Deborah Kuhn said a man dressed in fatigues came to the door to “harass my husband” about the flag. Someone also took photos of the flag, she said.
Sorrells said a resident approached Scarborough while he was on duty and alerted him to the flag. Sorrells said he did not know where the person approached Scarborough or what the deputy was doing.
According to the Sheriff’s Office, Scarborough went to the Kuhns’ home and gave Mark Kuhn a copy of the flag desecration statute. Scarborough told the Kuhns the flag was being displayed illegally.
Although the Kuhns live within the Asheville city limits, Sorrells said the complaint was made to a deputy.
“We have jurisdiction throughout the whole county of Buncombe,” Sorrells said. “We have a citizen that complains to us about a violation of law, we’re bound by oath to act on it.”
Scarborough told Mark Kuhn he was going to be issued a citation and asked for identification. Kuhn refused, slammed the door on the deputy’s hand, breaking the glass pane out of the door and cutting Scarborough’s hand, the Sheriff’s Office said.
Deborah Kuhn said they removed the flag from their front porch after Scarborough threatened to cite them, but they objected to showing Scarborough their IDs, which he needed to write the tickets. Scarborough then broke into their house and came after them, they said.
“He tried to keep us from closing the door, but we managed to get it closed,” Deborah Kuhn said. “We locked the door and he broke the glass to our front door and proceeded to assault my husband, saying, ‘You’re under arrest.’”
The Sheriff’s Office said a struggle ensued when Scarborough followed Kuhn back into the house. At that time, Deborah Kuhn also struck Scarborough in the face, authorities said in arrest reports.
Scarborough called for backup and five squad cars responded, Sorrells said.
Deborah Kuhn said she called 911 and ran into the street screaming for help.
Mark Kuhn said he did not attack Scarborough.
“He came after me, and I fought him back,” Kuhn, 43, said. “After I got out of his hold, I ran outside.”
“I think the officer did the appropriate thing by stating his intention to simply issue a citation and let it be worked out in court,” Sorrells said. “If Mr. Kuhn had simply complied with that request for identification and accepted the citation, we would have all gone about our way, and it could have been worked out in court. Once he assaulted the officer, it escalated very quickly.”
Sorrells said Scarborough suffered some scrapes and cuts to his hand and returned to duty later Wednesday. A message left for Scarborough at the Sheriff’s Office was not immediately returned.
Mark Kuhn, who said he had flown his flag upside down before without any problems, said he plans to fight the charges. The Kuhns each face a maximum 420 days in jail if convicted on all of the charges.
“We are going to do our best to get a civil liberties lawyer from the ACLU,” Kuhn said.
“We are going to take this big time. Officer Scarborough is not going to get away with this.”
The Kuhns said the Sheriff’s Office kept their flag. Sorrells said he had no record of that.
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