Disorderly conduct admitted in flag case

A 42-year-old Coupeville man who was arrested on suspicion of assaulting a peace protester, stealing her flag and driving with the woman on the hood of her car recently pleaded guilty to a single criminal charge.

Clay Miller pleaded guilty in Island County District Court two weeks ago to disorderly conduct. He received a one-year deferred sentence, which means he doesn't have to do any jail time and can petition to have the conviction removed from his record if he doesn't break any laws in the next year.

Miller was ordered to pay the victim, 51-year-old Coupeville resident Janis Schurr, $90 to cover her co-pay for the emergency room and the cost of traveling to a chiropractor.

In addition, Miller apologized to Schurr in open court.

Schurr said she accepted his apology, but she still has her doubts about whether he understands that what he did was wrong and that Americans have the right to express their opinions in a lawful manner.

"I think he got off really easy," she said. "He still doesn't get the whole civil rights thing."

Schurr explained that she was among a group that quietly held signs and waved flags protesting war at the corner of Highway 20 and Main Street on a regular basis before the war. On April 5, Schurr had a peace flag -- a flag similar to the U.S. flag, but with a prominent peace sign on it -- which she was trying to attach to a pole. It was a windy day, so she had the flag lying on the ground while she was trying to tie it.

Miller drove by and thought Schurr was breaching flag etiquette by allowing a U.S. flag to touch the ground. Schurr said he drove up on the curb, forcefully wrestled the flag from her and got into his car with it. She tried to stop him by standing in front of the car, but Miller started driving forward.

Schurr said she was forced to fall on top of the hood of his car in order to avoid being run down. Miller drove several hundred feet with her on the hood of his car.

According to Schurr, she kept repeating that it was a "peace flag" during the entire confrontation, but he seemed too angry to listen. But he finally stopped the car, allowing her to climb down, and returned the flag to her after swearing at her. He then drove off.

Schurr said she sustained a serious enough shoulder injury from the altercation that she immediately went to the emergency room and later had to see a chiropractor.

In exchange for Miller's plea, the prosecution dropped an assault charge against Miller. Island County Deputy Prosecutor Mike Henegen said the disorderly conduct charge is for both "disrupting a lawful meeting" and "disrupting the flow of traffic." He added he couldn't hand Miller a more serious charge because the facts of the case didn't correspond with legal definitions of any felony charges.

Miller did not return calls for comment.

Schurr said she was protesting the impending war because she wanted the U.S. officials to give the United Nations, weapons inspectors and diplomacy a real chance in Iraq. She points out that there are "plenty of other worse regimes in Africa," but they don't have oil.

"I don't believe in war," she said. "I think it should be the absolute last option."

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