Man speaks out after flag desecration charges dropped - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Man speaks out after flag desecration charges dropped

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Frank Snider says he was exercising his freedom of speech when he shredded an American flag and threw it in the street. Frank Snider says he was exercising his freedom of speech when he shredded an American flag and threw it in the street.
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CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - A local man who found himself in trouble with the law now says it's the law that was troubling in the first place.

The Cape Girardeau County Prosecutor dismissed charges against Frank Snider citing a Supreme Court ruling hours after police arrested him.

Now Snider is saying quite a lot. In fact, he says that's what he was trying to do when he destroyed the U.S. flag.  He says he was simply trying to speak out.

"I was just upset and needed to do something to blow off steam," Snider said.

A convicted sex offender, Snider says he hasn't been able to find a job ever since his release from prison.

"I was getting a little aggravated at the government, so I tried to set my flag on fire, but the wind kept blowing my lighter out. So I said screw it, got my pocket knife out shredded the thing, and threw it out in the street."

An irate neighbor called police and officers say they found the torn and tattered flag when they arrived.

"I had heard years ago burning the flag is not against the law, and that the Supreme Court says so, so I figured this is the same thing protected by free speech, freedom of expression. Then he comes and arrests me for it, and I'm like what for?" Snider said.

"I found the statute that said it's a crime to mutilate, deface state or national flag, so I filed the charge," Prosecutor Morley Swingle said.

He says he acted according to Missouri Law.  He later realized the U.S. Supreme Court considers destroying the flag, protected speech according to the first amendment.  That's after a similar Texas case back in 1989.

"It's embarrassing, I didn't remember the 20-year-old case, but it's something we never use in our office, never apply so something I completely forgot about," Swingle said.

Now that he's dismissed those charges, Swingle says Snider can even pick up the remnants of his flag if he chooses to, but Snider says he has a spare.  He even says he plans on displaying the flag again over the holidays.

Snider says he got a ticket for littering when he threw the flag on the road.

Prosecutor Swingle also points out the law does not allow you to destroy someone else's flag.  That would be considered property damage.

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