YORKTOWN, Va. (WAVY) — Cellphone video captured a man pull up in a car in front of a Yorktown Walmart on the Fourth of July, toss an American flag on the ground and set it on fire.
He’s since been arrested and charged not for the burning of the flag itself, which is protected by the First Amendment, but for “burning an object in a public place with the intent to intimidate,” a Virginia state law.
Mitchell Stauffer was arrested on Thursday and charged with the class 6 felony.
The York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office says the way he did it, yelling at others in front of the Walmart store in the 2600 block of George Washington Memorial Highway before driving away, was what led to the charge.
Sheriff Danny Diggs shared this statement about the arrest: “The burning of our great American Flag is very offensive to most people including me. That being said, the courts have ruled that act alone is an expression of free speech and not per se illegal. This charge is appropriate under the Code of Virginia. It is fortunate that no one was injured today.”
If convicted on the charge, Stauffer could face up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine.