Houston Co. judge dismisses flag destruction charge

Terence Johnson (Source: Houston County Jail)
Terence Johnson (Source: Houston County Jail)

CROCKETT, TX (KTRE) - A Houston County judge approved an order Wednesday dismissing a charge against a Bedias man accused of destroying an American flag when he threw it into oncoming traffic.

Houston County Court-at-Law Judge Sarah Tunnell Clark's order states the charge against Terence Dwayne Johnson, 21, is unconstitutional, according to higher court decisions.

Houston County deputies arrested Johnson in May after the surveillance video from Broxson Hardware, located at 120 South Commerce St., shows Johnson pull an American flag from its mount and throw it onto State Highway 19 and into oncoming traffic.

The affidavit states the flag was never recovered.

Clark was unable to post bail and remained in jail from May 3 to June 7, when he was released on a personal recognizance bond. As a condition of the bond, Johnson had to write a three-page paper regarding the proper way to hang, carry, clean, fold, store and dispose of the flag.

Johnson attorney then filed a motion to dismiss, saying the statute of destruction of flag violates freedom of speech.

In Clark's order, she states Johnson claimed he was upset by racial remarks made about his mother by a merchant and pulled the flag down and threw it on the ground.

Clark states Johnson could have been charged with criminal mischief, as he destroyed someone else's property.

Clark cited previous cases in which the statute was unconstitutional.

"While I find mistreatment of the United States flag which represents our national history and the unity of our Country to be personally appalling, in my role as Judge of the County Court at Law of Houston County, I am bound to follow the rulings of the higher courts," Clark wrote.

Clark recommends the reading of the US flag code, along with a book titled, "The Care and Display of the American Flag."

"Many things we may view every day are considered to be abuse of the American Flag and are in violation of the United States Code," Clark wrote. "The United States flag should not be used in decoration or wrapped around any object, it should always be allowed to hang free, and it should not be used in advertising or printed or embroidered or used on clothing or bedding."

"We put meaning and respect back into the American flag by learning about the proper respect and care of the flag, by following those rules personally and by sharing that information with others," she concluded.

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