A county judge in Idaho removed a disabled U.S. Army veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan from a courtroom for wearing his military uniform.
In a letter to the editor of the Idaho State Journal, Lt. Col. Fred Flynn explains:
Upon entering the courtroom, I was advised by a court marshal that the judge would not permit me in his court while I was wearing my Army uniform. I was told he felt uncomfortable with me in uniform in his court. Also, I was told he didn’t want anybody ‘wrapping themselves in the flag’
I was extremely disappointed, and somewhat humiliated, when told I had to leave a courtroom that is based on the very Constitution that I served to protect.
The incident reportedly took place inside the Bannock County Courthouse in Pocatello, Idaho, earlier this month.
Sixth District Judge David C. Nye defended his decision to boot the veteran out of the courtroom, arguing his no-uniform policy for off-duty personnel is aimed at preventing jurors “from being influenced by undue passion and sympathy,” reports the local newspaper.
Nye reportedly claimed the policy is widespread in Idaho.
“I question whether such a policy doesn’t actually demonstrate disrespect for those of us who are proud of our uniforms and our service to our Country,” said Flynn, who currently lives in South Carolina.
He was not the one on the hot seat. Flynn was actually attending the jury trial of Dustin Sweeney, a local U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) veteran who served in Iraq.
I wanted him to know that his fellow veterans were behind him through thick and thin.
This veteran, Sgt. Sweeney, USMC, has served his country bravely, doing the most dangerous job in all of Iraq, of clearing roadside bombs [improvised explosive devices — IEDs]. He even re-enlisted while in Iraq. I have immense respect and support for him.
Flynn accepted the judge’s request to leave, eventually returning to the courtroom in civilian clothing.
The Journal reports:
Flynn retired from the Army in 1998 but was recalled after that to serve three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He served for a total of 24 years.
Sweeney was found guilty of possession and delivery of methamphetamine during the trial. … Sweeney still has multiple felony charges pending against him, including possession and delivery of heroin, destruction of jail property and aggravated battery with an enhancement for using a weapon in the commission of the crime.
The Iraq veteran’s most serious charge involves allegedly shooting his brother.
Sweeney was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps in 2010.
His fellow veterans launched a fundraising campaign soon after hearing about his legal troubles and were able to hire a lawyer for him —Pocatello attorney Kelly Kumm.
The Journal quotes the attorney as saying, “Sweeney has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, and he receives a monthly disability payment from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.”
“I know him to be a person of good character, and I know that he is remorseful,” he adds.
The attorney is pushing for anger management counseling and substance abuse treatment for his client.