Flag Dispute Arises From Casino Concert

Tuesday, July 21st 2009, 4:27 pm
By: News On 6

By Craig Day, The News On 6

CATOOSA, OK -- A fight may be brewing over the flag.  A guitarist for a Tulsa band was arrested for throwing the American flag down on stage and stomping and dancing on it.  It happened during a show at the Cherokee Casino in Catoosa.  Now, it's a question of free speech versus outraging public decency.

A tribal deputy marshal arrested 30-year-old Marion Gooding, III, during a show on Thursday night at the Cherokee Hard Rock Casino.  According to a police report, Gooding took an American flag he was wearing around his shoulders, threw it on the floor and then trampled, stomped and danced on top of it.

"I was shocked and disturbed by this that somebody would think they could get by with that," said Rogers County Sheriff Scott Walton.

Rogers County Sheriff Scott Walton says the arresting tribal deputy marshal, who is cross deputized with Rogers County, made the right choice.

"People in this part of the United States are very proud of the flag and what it stands for and the men and women who have lost their lives to protect that flag.  It's not an object to be stomped on or drug across the floor," said Rogers County Sheriff Scott Walton.

Gooding was booked into the Rogers County jail on a misdemeanor of outraging public decency and was later released on a $500 bond.  Oklahoma has a statute making it a felony to deface a flag, but federal cases protect it as a free speech issue.     

Gooding's attorney Tim Studebaker says his client was indeed wearing a flag on his shoulders, but says there was no intentional trampling of the flag.

"He takes the flag off and drapes it over his amplifiers and apparently, according to him, what happened was a piece of the flag was touching the ground and unbeknownst to him, he stepped on that corner that was on the ground," said attorney Tim Studebaker.

Studebaker says the whole matter is being blown out of proportion.

"This young man is a Boy Scout, he's a member of his local church in Tulsa and would never do anything to desecrate this country, the flag or anything," said attorney Tim Studebaker.

The matter is now being looked at by Rogers County prosecutors to determine if charges will be filed.

The district attorney's office is reviewing the casino's surveillance video of the show.  Gooding's attorney is confident it will show any disrespect to the flag was unintentional.