ASHEVILLE, N.C. — Buncombe County authorities have dropped flag-desecration charges against a couple who displayed an upside-down flag with protest signs pinned to it.
Sheriff Van Duncan said he asked District Attorney Ron Moore to drop charges against Mark and Deborah Kuhn, whose flag included a photo of President Bush with "Out now" written on it.
Duncan also said his office would continue an investigation into the conduct of the deputy who issued the charges after a complaint from a fellow National Guardsman. Duncan said Deputy Brian Scarborough "probably shouldn't have been there to begin with."
The Kuhns also said Scarborough assaulted them.
The sheriff said U.S. Supreme Court decisions have protected flag desecration as free speech and it was doubtful that the county could win a case.
Scarborough charged the Asheville couple July 25. A scuffle ensued, and the deputy put the Kuhns in jail on misdemeanor charges of assault on a government employee, obstruction and flag desecration.
The sheriff's office returned the confiscated flag, which Kuhn said the couple planned to display again. The Kuhns said they displayed the flag upside down to protest the state of the country, though the sheriff's office said the signs pinned to the flag led to the charges.
Duncan said his office received hundreds of calls about the case, some supportive of the deputy and others not. Scarborough, 25, was a reserve deputy before he was hired full-time in June. He also served with the National Guard in Iraq.
The state's flag-desecration law had been enforced three times since 1917, according to the state Administrative Office of the Courts.