Tue March 18, 2008
Marine won't draw penalty for flag fight
By Ann Kelley
MIDWEST CITY — A U.S. Marine Corps reservist may have broken the law when he crossed a protest line to defend the U.S. flag, but he will not be punished for it, city officials said.
Midwest City Assistant City Attorney Randal Homburg said he thinks there are grounds to prosecute Ray Adam Modisette, 20, for an act of civil disobedience. At the request of the local police department, Homburg said he's declining to file charges.
Modisette, of Shawnee, was arrested Friday afternoon on a complaint of interfering with official police process. He told The Oklahoman he was reacting to a war protester who was stuffing an American flag down her pants.
"We believe the act was emotional and not really deliberate,” Midwest City Police Chief Brandon Clabes said. "It caused us to take action, but we hated to have to do it.”
Modisette was leaving Tinker Air Force Base in his car Friday when he saw the protester with the flag. He said he turned around and headed for the crowd to get the flag. He was handcuffed after ignoring several requests by officers to move away from the small group of demonstrators from Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan.
Modisette posted $850 bail — money he said he earned during a deployment to Iraq — and was released on Friday.
Reservist finds supporters
With prosecutors declining a case against Modisette, he will be refunded the $850, which he was willing to pay. "I think it would have been money well-spent,” Modisette said Monday. "I guess a lot of people on Ol' Glory's side felt the same way.”
Several Oklahomans said they were willing to help him pay potential fines.
Mitch Logston of Oklahoma City said he and about nine other friends collected $500 for Modisette. He said many of them have children in the military, some serving in Iraq.
June Parsons, 73, of Stillwater said the incident brought back bad memories of anti-military sentiment during the Vietnam War. Her husband was killed fighting in Vietnam, she said.
"If I was there I would have wanted to do the same thing and probably gotten the snot knocked out of me,” Parsons said. "I'm proud of that young man for standing up.”
Mike Chase, a reserve deputy with the Oklahoma County sheriff's office, was among about 150 people who showed up Friday to demonstrate against the church group. Chase, who lost his son, Lance Michael Chase, in January 2006 in Iraq, said he could relate to both the emotions expressed by Modisette and the reaction of police.
"They (Westboro members) were exercising their rights that my son and thousands of others gave their lives for,” Chase said. "I don't blame (Modisette) — it was definitely hard for me to take, too.”
If police hadn't stepped in, the situation could have erupted and people could have been hurt, Chase said.
Police interference may have even spared Modisette a potential lawsuit from the Westboro group, if the situation had turned physical, he said.
Chase said that after the publicity generated by Modisette's arrest, he fielded more than a dozen calls from people wanting to contribute money.
Modisette, an aviation mechanic student at Gordon Cooper Technology Center in Shawnee, said support has been overwhelming, but the Marine reservist declined offers of financial assistance.
"The way I was raised was the reason I couldn't drive by and watch that go on,” he said. "There's liberty, and then there's ridiculous.”
"If I was there I would have wanted to do the same thing and probably gotten the snot knocked out of me. I'm proud of that young man for standing up.”
June Parsons, 73, of Stillwater