UPDATE: Flag-burner 'incredibly disheartened'

UPDATE: Flag-burner 'incredibly disheartened'

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URBANA — A 22-year-old Urbana resident has filed a lawsuit in federal court in Urbana challenging his arrest and detention in July for burning an American flag and posting photos on Facebook. 

Bryton Mellott and attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois and the Chicago office of the law firm Schiff Hardin filed the suit Wednesday.

The suit, filed against four Urbana police officers who arrested Mellott on July 4, challenges Illinois’ flag-desecration law. The defendants named are Urbana police officers Kenneth Sprague, Jeremy Hale, Matthew McElhoe and Andrew Charles.

Appearing at a news conference in Champaign this morning with ACLU officials, Mellott said he is "incredibly disheartened that this lawsuit ever had to be filed. The events I've experienced preceding and during my unlawful detainment shook what liitle faith I've held in our criminal-justice system."

"I hold the opinion that open dissent is the highest form of American patriotism, and it was a frightening display of irony that on the Fourth of July, I should be taken from my workplace to sit in a county jail for exercising this liberty."

Mellott said he burned the flag and posted still pictures of his actions on Facebook "to address the issue of gun violence in our country that has existed needlessly and without intervention" and "to address the issue of violence brought against members of my queer community and against every community considered to be 'other.'"

In particular, he said, he was concerned about the June 12 massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., where 49 people were killed.

"Specifically, that's what made me think about this post," Mellott said. "That was what inspired a lot of the text that I had included with the picture."

The day after Mellott’s arrest, Champaign County State’s Attorney Julia Rietz said he would not be charged and acknowledged that the Illinois statute contradicted a 1989 U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

“We have considered 720 ILCS 5/49-1, Flag Desecration, an Illinois statute currently in effect,” Rietz said at the time. “This statute was the basis for the decision by Urbana police officers to arrest Mellott. While that statute remains in effect, it is contradictory to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Texas v. Johnson. We will be discussing this issue with our local legislators and asking that they consider reviewing this statute given the constitutional issues it presents."

After posting the photos on Facebook, Mellott received a number of comments from friends and others. Urbana police contacted him and asked him to remove the post, saying that they believed it could cause harm to others at his place of employment.

But Mellott said Thursday that at the time of his arrest, "there was no mention that my being taken into custody was protective, and frankly, had there been the option of protective custody, I would have considered it as a reasonable person who was put into danger."

He also said that "personally, I didn't receive any credible threats of violence," including during his detention in the county jail.

"But I definitely felt unsafe," he added.

Mellott said he was arrested, frisked and handcuffed at the Wal-Mart where he still works. After being booked at the Champaign County Jail, he was held for five hours, he said.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified compensatory damages "in an amount to be ascertained at trial, for the unlawful suppression of Mr. Mellott's freedom of expression; the unlawful detention, arrests, and searches and seizures; and the emotional distress experienced by Mr. Mellott as a result" of the police's actions.

The suit was filed aganst four Urbana police officers and not the state of Illinois, ACLU attorney Rebecca Glenberg said, because "there's no way to sue a state legislature for an unconstitutional law the way that the courts have set up the mechanism for constitutional cases."

"You really have to sue the individuals who were directly responsible for bringing about the violation of the Constitutional rights. The fact that the officers are the defendants doesn't represent any sort of ill will toward those officers, but they are legally the proper defendants in a case like this."

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Thewatcher wrote on January 12, 2017 at 10:01 am

I suppose this isn't surprising, but the officers aren't the ones in the wrong.  It's the State for having a law that is in direct conflict with the Supreme Court law.  He acknowledges that though, so we'll see where this goes.

IlliniwekMerica wrote on January 12, 2017 at 10:01 am

"I mean, obviously I want to make money off of this, but trust me the main reason I'm doing it is for free speech or something like that."

Knowledge wrote on January 12, 2017 at 11:01 am

some people live life simply to be an attention whore.

Just one persons opinion I guess ....

Yea Right wrote on January 12, 2017 at 1:01 pm

5 hours?  poor thing...should of been 5 years! Maybe you'll think twice next time about burning a US flag.  If you want to burn a flag, go to another country.  Actually, you should just go to another country now! oh wait, but you want to get your name in the news and get your 5 min. of fame..whatever...poor excuse for a US citizen!
 Be gone!

shortgirl wrote on January 12, 2017 at 1:01 pm

You are certainly entitled to your opinion however flag burning is legally protected as expressive conduct under the First Amendment. This does not make a person a poor excuse of anything.

Annotator wrote on January 13, 2017 at 9:01 am

We'll see, after the next three members of the USSC are seated by the Trump administration.  Lawsuits challenging the previous rulings can be brought and old rulings thrown out.

SaintClarence27 wrote on January 13, 2017 at 3:01 pm

Not with this one. This is settled law, barring an amendment (which isn't going to happen).

BART15 wrote on January 12, 2017 at 1:01 pm

It's "always" about the money.

whatithink wrote on January 12, 2017 at 2:01 pm

After his payout, he'll be just like the person Dire straits sings about in, "Money For Nothing".

Annotator wrote on January 13, 2017 at 9:01 am

If his lawsuit doesn't have a monetary value specified, the jury or judge, will set the amount.  A Lincoln penny is appropriate IMHO.

yates wrote on January 12, 2017 at 2:01 pm

You likely would have been spared the hassle if you would have just waved a Mexican flag around town, and you would have still been making the same anti American statement.

doubley wrote on January 12, 2017 at 2:01 pm

I think maybe we should take up a collection for him!  For a one way plane ticket.  And his ACLU lawyers can go with him.

SaintClarence27 wrote on January 13, 2017 at 3:01 pm

God forbid lawyers protect the constitutional rights of their clients, am I right?

Annotator wrote on January 14, 2017 at 11:01 am

Exactly what all lawyers are supposed to do.  Bryton's lawsuit will go forward.  Any guess on your part what the verdict will be?

cweiriit wrote on January 12, 2017 at 10:01 pm


hermom wrote on January 13, 2017 at 8:01 am

And if they'd done nothing and he'd been beaten he'd be suing becuase they did nothing.  What a huge waste of resources all around, in protecting him and now defending a stupid lawsuit.

Yea Right wrote on January 13, 2017 at 8:01 am

"Wasn't trying to be disrespectful". Really? How much more disrespectful can you get than burning the U.S. Flag?? And please explain how that is going to help the gun violence?? That's what i thought...it doesnt.  If you don't like it here, please do everyone a favor and leave!

Annotator wrote on January 13, 2017 at 9:01 am

I'm pretty certain he would like to leave, except the basement of his parent's home isn't portable.  Like most GenZ members, who have an LAS education, they have no other frame of reference after they are brain-washed by the faculty.

JamBam wrote on January 13, 2017 at 10:01 am

So a Muslim commits a terrorist attack in Orlando FL and kills 49 people, and this guy burns the US Flag in response to it?



Annotator wrote on January 13, 2017 at 3:01 pm

Bryton's LAS faculty members have indoctrinated him to believe that removing all guns will always solve the problems, as they see them.  The massacre in Orlando was committed by a US citizen who swore allegiance to ISIS.  So, why not burn the ISIS flag? 


The mass murderer was legally able to purchase the weapon used, so in his twisted mind, the only answer to the "problem" is to burn the US flag!  In Bryton's twisted logic is to confiscate all guns from all gun owners, so he will feel safer.  That's until the next mass murderer uses a knife, a car or truck, or one of dozens of other deadly weapons.  Bryton doesn't really understand that the radical Islamic Jihadists believe that killing Christians, Jews, LGBT and all other people of non-Muslim religions, is their "duty and entry" to their version of "heaven".


We can't educate or reason with Bryton, as his statements demostrate.

CallSaul wrote on January 14, 2017 at 10:01 am

As usual, those who most loudly claim the mantle of patriotism and reverence for the constitution are the first to spit on the best principles within it in red faced rage at someone who dares to express an opinion they disagree with.

Though he of course lost the popular vote by 3 million, Putin's lillte stooge won ~100% of the votes of these fake patriots who would love nothing more than to lock up anyone they disagree with.

And soon their hero will be in the Whitehouse.

But the majority who voted against Putin's little stooge will not just roll over and give up.

Trump's sycophants will scream and wail about it, but they won't stop hearing and seeing the resistance to this type of authoritarianism and ethnonationalism...

Annotator wrote on January 14, 2017 at 11:01 am

"But the majority who voted against Putin's little stooge will not just roll over and give up." 

That appears to be a threat.  Hopefully, you won't try to make good on it.  The Champaign County jail is a miserable place for you snowflakes to be incarcerated.  Especially with Tyrone Franklin or Joshu'ah Young being your possible cellmate! 

In any event, keep commenting and demonstrating your ignorance.

CallSaul wrote on January 14, 2017 at 11:01 am

What a deeply strange comment...

And if, as it appears, you support Lil' Poodle, you understand that he's the most delicate little snowflake that ever snowflaked, right?

He can't stand to hear the slightest criticism and neither can his snowflake minions who break down whenever they read something critical of the Russian stooge.

So much so that he and they are now attacking civil rights leader John Lewis. And they're doing so on MLK day weekend no less.

And please share with us what exactly you believe I was threatening to do...

Annotator wrote on January 15, 2017 at 3:01 pm

"What a deeply strange comment...

And if, as it appears, you support Lil' Poodle, you understand that he's the most delicate little snowflake that ever snowflaked, right?"

Delicate?  Not really.  As far as rep. Lewis is concerned, IMHO Trump's reply was spot on.  Atlanta's newspapers, and thier internet presence, are proof of that.  Atlanta is nearly as bad as Chicago's current situation.  Liberal administrators are ruining both cities by not supporting their law enforcement agencies.

CallSaul wrote on January 16, 2017 at 10:01 am

Yes, a delicate little poodle who preens and can't stand to hear any criticism whatsoever. Much like his loyal little minions.

Your willful ignorance about both Lewis's district and Chicago is not at all surprising and is right in line with the general deliberate ignorance of most trumpers.

cwakefld wrote on January 14, 2017 at 8:01 pm

If you do not believe in freedom of expression for those you despise, you do not believe in it at all.

Bulldogmojo wrote on January 15, 2017 at 7:01 pm


If these so called self-anointed "patriots" with their phoney outrage nonsense really were offended by the burning of the American flag they would be up in arms about even the display of un-American flags like the Confederate flag or the Nazi flag or any other symbolism displayed which are clearly an affront to the current American stars and stripes. But they don't object especially when those other ones are being waved by someone gunning down black people in a church or endorsing the current PEOTUS. Right deplorables?

My father served in the military to protect the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and he didn't do it so we could be told to sit down shut up and behave by the intentionally ignorant.

If you are going to burn a flag make sure it's one that was made in America not Taiwan and buy the replacement from the same company. If you're going to burn a flag at least be an American job creator doing it.

Now shove off mindless Alt-right goons