A retired Army veteran, attending the trial of a buddy facing charges of selling meth, was asked to leave a courtroom by a judge because he was wearing his army uniform in court.
Sixth District Judge David C. Nye — currently under consideration to be Idaho’s newest federal judge — said he ordered that Lt. Col. Fred Flynn leave the courtroom because Nye felt Flynn’s uniform could influence the jury.
Nye said the restriction for off-duty personnel is pretty common among Southeast Idaho judges, and is aimed at keeping jurors from being influenced by undue passion and sympathy.
Separately, under U.S. Army regulation 670-1, former military members may wear a uniform when attending a military funeral, memorial services, weddings and inaugerals inaugurals. They are also permitted at parades on national or state holidays or other patriotic parades where an active or reserve military unit is participating.
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“Wearing the Army uniform at any other time, or for any other purpose ... is prohibited,” the regulation says.
“You’re really only authorized to wear the uniform for official use or as authorized by a commander,” Maj. Chris Borders, spokesman for the Idaho Army National Guard in Boise, said when asked to describe the regulation.
Flynn, a disabled veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, left the courtroom, changed his clothes and returned in civilian attire. He said he felt humiliated and disappointed that the judge would ask him to leave because he was wearing his Army uniform.
“I had to leave a courtroom that is based on the very Constitution that I served to protect,” Flynn said.
“What the marshal told me is that the judge didn’t want anyone wrapped in a flag during the trial."
Flynn at one point was the commanding officer of the Army National Guard in Pocatello, but now lives in South Carolina. He was in Pocatello to attend the jury trial for Dustin Sweeney, a local veteran of the war in Iraq.
Sweeney, honorably discharged from the Marine Corps in 2010, was found guilty of possession and delivery of methamphetamine during the trial. The jury deliberated for about four hours before reaching that verdict.
He still has multiple felony charges pending against him related to multiple incidents in the Pocatello area. The most serious of those charges stems from when Sweeney allegedly shot his brother Ryan in the leg on Feb. 8.
When Sweeney’s former commanding officer and a group of Marines who had served with him in Iraq learned about his legal problems, a fundraising campaign was launched and Sweeney’s comrades hired Pocatello attorney Kelly Kumm to represent him.
Kumm said Sweeney has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, and he receives a monthly disability payment from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Sweeney’s military service and the medical issues he faced after his discharge were mitigating factors that were argued at the jury trial, Kumm said.
“I wanted (Sweeney) to know that his fellow veterans were behind him through thick and thin,” Flynn said. “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.”
Idaho Stateman reporter John Sowell contributed.