The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office has determined that a CalArts student violated state law with his controversial American flag exhibit but does not plan to file charges against him, a spokesman said Wednesday.
Adam Greene’s exhibit, which stirred immediate anger and debate, featured a flag draped across the floor in the main lobby of the Valencia campus.
“We have determined that Adam Greene did, in fact, violate Section 614 of the Military and Veterans Code by defiling the flag,” said Deputy Dist. Atty. James A. Baker. “He invited people to walk on the flag, and that is defiling the flag.”
The exhibit has been closed since Monday evening, when two men snatched the flag and turned it in to the Santa Clarita sheriff’s station. The men have not been charged because no one has filed a complaint against them, authorities said. Greene said he is considering filing such a complaint.
Meanwhile, the 28-year-old student faces an official inquest after several residents from the surrounding community called sheriff’s deputies to report his exhibit. The maximum penalty for misdemeanor flag defiling is six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
“We believe the best way to resolve this matter is to require him and an administrator from the college to attend a hearing at the district attorney’s office in which we explain the law and the court decisions on free speech,” Baker said.
Greene said he will not return Baker’s calls until he consults an attorney.
“You have the local district attorney, and he wants to have this conference with me and what is it about?” Greene said. “It’s about scare tactics.”
Greene’s exhibit was meant as a show of support for another art student, Scott Tyler, whose similar artwork has attracted protests at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Both pieces featured a flag on the floor and a ledger in which visitors could write comments. Both exhibits made it difficult to write in the book without stepping on the flag.
Such artwork should be protected by First Amendment rights, Greene argued. Baker said those rights have legal limits.
“For example, you cannot paint swastikas on Jewish temples and you cannot burn a cross on someone’s lawn,” the deputy district attorney said.
CalArts officials said they will cooperate with authorities. Greene said he will seek legal counsel from the American Civil Liberties Union or attorney Gloria Allred.