A judge found a 75-year-old veteran not guilty of illegally hanging American flags on the fence of a Veterans’ Affairs facility in West Los Angeles on Tuesday.
Robert Rosebrock initially faced a federal misdemeanor charge because of a VA statute that bans people from posting “placards” or other materials on a VA property except when authorized by the head of the facility, NBC Los Angeles reported.
Police cited Rosebrock on Memorial Day 2016 for allegedly displaying two napkin-sized American flags on a fence next to the entrance to the Veterans Park.
Rosebrock has gathered with his fellow veterans every Sunday and Memorial Day for the past nine years to protest what they say is the VA’s failure to make full use of the sprawling property to benefit veterans, especially homeless veterans.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Steve Kim found Rosebrock not guilty of the violation, which carries a maximum term of six months in prison. The judge found no evidence that showed Rosebrock lacked permission to post the flags or that he even put them up in the first place.
Rosebrock told NBC Los Angeles after his court victory that he was “honored that the flag was exonerated — and for once the veterans got a victory.”
Rosebrock initially faced two additional charges for allegedly taking unauthorized photos of a VA police officer at the gate of the VA facility without permission.
The judge ruled in a pretrial decision, however, that the regulation was not reasonable, under even the most lenient First Amendment standard.
The VA argued that the statute was necessary to protect veterans’ privacy and discourage invasive and distracting media activity. The court ruled, however, that if the VA wanted to protect veterans’ privacy, it would ban all photography, not just media photography.
This is not the first time a veteran has been charged for displaying the American flag and then later found not guilty of the charge.