Fighting For Important Causes In State And Federal Courts
Television coverage of Attorneys Andrew Shubin and Sean McGraw defense of the First Amendment ‘s freedom of speech rights by taking on police arrest of a citizen who expressed his political views in opposition to governmental policies.By: Maria Miller
ALLEGHENY TOWNSHIP, Pa. — It’s a story 6 News first reported last month: a Blair County man charged criminally after hanging a flag upside down outside his Duncansville home with the word “AIM” sprayed across it. That stands for “American Indian Movement.”
Police in Allegheny Township removed the flag from the property and charged the man with desecration.
On Tuesday, Joshuaa Brubaker was in court for his preliminary hearing. It was an extremely emotional, often heated courtroom, not just by Brubaker but also from police, the district attorney and the woman who made the initial complaint.
That woman was the first person to take the stand, telling the judge she was extremely insulted when she drove past Brubaker’s home and saw the flag hanging upside down and spray-painted.
She said she has since learned what AIM stands for, but said it doesn’t change her opinion. Not only is she a U.S. veteran, she’s of American Indian Heritage herself and she said what he did was complete desecration.
“I was overseas fighting for the flag with my life and to see it as I did, in my own neighborhood, I’m not going to have it,” she told the judge.
Blair County Attorney Richard Consiglio agreed with police that what Brubaker did was against state statutes, even when it comes to an exception of the law that allows one to write on a flag for political statements.
“Is this guy involved with political demonstration, political protest or does he put the flag on the side of his house right across from the police station to harass people?” asked Consiglio.
Police in Allegheny Township believe the latter. That’s why they charged Brubaker last month. But an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, who is now representing Brubaker, said Tuesday that’s a matter of opinion protected by the First Amendment.
“We’re going to push this back in every way, shape and form because the First Amendment is that kind of important principle,” said Andrew Shubin, a State College attorney. “That’s with Joshuaa’s purpose was, to express his political views. There really was no disputing that today.”
Brubaker took the stand himself Tuesday and explained to the judge what he told 6 News last month, saying his intentions were never meant to insult anyone and that he was only standing up for the American Indian heritage and raising awareness to his people, mainly in the Midwest, and the rights he says are being taken away from them every day.
There are still a few questions when it comes to the law and whether or not Brubaker’s actions are protected by the First Amendment or the exception to the statute that allows a person to write on the flag for a political statement.
“We believe these are First Amendment right down the middle cases,” Shubin said. “Now they will make a decision whether or not the statutes themselves are antiquated and unconstitutional. I think the court will do that.”
“Every case is the same way. You talk about negotiations or you about going to trial. It’s that simple and that’s what’s going to happen,” Consiglio said.
The judge admitted himself Tuesday that the case is complicated. He said both sides gave good arguments, but ultimately took it out of his hands and gave it to a higher court to possibly let a jury decide. The judge also said he thinks it could be a case that helps form future case law on the issue for the entire country.