Judge orders retired Army Lt. Col. to leave courtroom for wearing uniform

Retired Army Lt. Col. Fred Flynn (Courtesy Photo)

A 24-year-veteran of the U.S. Army — who was told to leave an Idaho courtroom for wearing his Army uniform–says he was “humiliated” and “disappointed” over the judge’s decision earlier this month.

Lt. Col. Fred Flynn is the former commanding officer of the Army Nation Guard in Pocatello, Idaho. He currently lives in South Carolina and retired from the Army in 1998, but traveled back to Idaho recently to show support for another vet, who was on trial for drug possession.

Flynn was approached by a marshal when entering the courtroom and was told he had to leave.  He later returned in civilian clothes. While Flynn says the judge has a right to control what goes on his courtroom, he says it’s disrespectful to vets who are proud of the uniform and their service to this country.

Judge David C. Nye’s policy that no off-duty personnel be allowed to wear a uniform inside his courtroom, is reportedly a pretty common one among Southeast Idaho judges. The purpose of the uniform restriction in court is to prevent jurors from being influenced by “undue passion and sympathy.”

Under U.S. Army regulation 670-1, former military members are permitted to wear a uniform when attending certain functions, such as: a military funeral, memorial service, or wedding. The uniform is also allowed to be worn at parades on national or state holidays or “other patriotic parades where an active or reserve military unit is participating.”

Still, Flynn says, “I had to leave a courtroom that is based on the very Constitution that I served to protect.”  Flynn adds that he simply wanted the vet on trial to know that his fellow veterans were “behind him through thick and thin.”

Dustin Sweeney, an Iraq war vet who was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps in 2010, suffers from PTSD and traumatic brain injury. He was convicted of “possession and delivery of methamphetamine” earlier this month. The Idaho Statesman reports that he’s also facing multiple felony charges related to other incidents in the Pocatello area.

Sweeney has had a lot of support from the local military veteran community, who helped him hire attorney Kelly Kumm. “I’ve spent a lot of time with (Sweeney), and I know him to be a person of good character, and I know that he is remorseful,” Kumm told the Statesman.

Kumm says she was not surprised about the guilty verdict but her team disagrees with the prosecution about what should happen next. She believes Sweeney should be able to get some kind of help instead of being sent away to prison for years.

Flynn says, “This veteran, Sgt. Sweeney, USMC, has served his country bravely, doing the most dangerous job in all of Iraq, of clearing roadside bombs. He even re-enlisted while in Iraq. I have immense respect and support for him.”

Sweeney is due back in court next month to face a charge of “malicious injury to jail property,” after he and another inmate flooded their cell and destroyed fixtures at the Bannock County Jail.

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  • Michele graduated with a B.S. in Telecommunication from the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications. She has spent numerous years working in the news industry in south Florida, including many positions ranging from being a news writer at WSVN, the Fox affiliate in Miami to being an associate news producer at WPLG-TV, the ABC affiliate in Miami. Michele has also worked in Public Relations and Marketing.

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