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Musician Arrested on Flag-Abuse Allegation

(CN) - A sheriff's deputy assaulted and locked up a musician for 13 hours, and threatened to throw him in prison for 3 years, because he didn't like the way the musician treated the flag during a show, the musician claims in Tulsa Federal Court. The complaint does not state precisely what the musician did to the flag, but Rogers County sheriff's Officer John Ketcher allegedly said while arresting him, "He is being arrested for stomping on the American flag. We take that very seriously around here."

Marion Gooding says the Rogers County District Attorney refused to press charges, observing that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that treating the flag "with indignity" is a form of protected free speech, even in Oklahoma.

Gooding was arrested in July 2009 during his show at the Cherokee Casino as he performed with his band, Smunty Voje.

Gooding says he owns the flag in question, and uses it in the show.

Ketcher interrupted the show to say he had "personal objections" to Gooding's treatment of the flag, according to the complaint.

Ketcher arrested Gooding on charges of "mutilating, treating with indignity or destroying flag," a felony punishable by a $3,000 fine and 3 years in prison in Oklahoma.

Ketcher also searched his personal possessions without a warrant and photocopied his documents, Gooding says.

Gooding says the arrest, and ensuing media coverage, hurt his reputation and the reputation of his band. He seeks punitive damages for constitutional violations, assault and battery, and false imprisonment.

He is represented by David Keesling with Richardson Richardson and Boudreaux of Tulsa.

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