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Juveniles charged in flag desecration

Staff writer

Marion County Sheriff Rob Craft has announced that three juveniles have been charged with criminal trespass in a case that generated a great deal of controversy and national attention in May.

During Memorial Day weekend, vandals entered Prairie Lawn Cemetery and desecrated nine American flags that were part of the Avenue of Flags display at the cemetery. Nine of the flags installed in memory of local veterans were torn from their poles. Several were ripped apart; all nine were left on the ground where cemetery sexton Robert Morgan found them early on May 29 when he opened the cemetery for the day.

Marion County sheriff’s department took charge of the investigation because the cemetery is in the county, not in the Peabody city limits.

As Craft began his investigation, the story of the damaged flags took on a life of its own and spread on Internet social-networking sites, such as Facebook.

News on the Internet of a rally in Peabody to show support for the flag and the soldiers and veterans who fought to defend it also attracted a great deal of attention. Eventually Internet threats became a cause for concern with city and county law enforcement. Attempts to contain the event succeeded in scaling down attendance and only about 30 people showed up.

Craft did not elaborate on his department’s investigation.

“As of now, what I can tell you is that the three have been charged and have been served, but they have not yet appeared in court,” he said.

Last modified Jan. 6, 2011

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