Judicial Watch Victory: Court Finds Federal Photography Charges against 75-Year Old Los Angeles Veteran Robert Rosebrock Violate First Amendment
APRIL 14, 2017
Rosebrock to be tried Tuesday, April 18, on Federal charges of purportedly displaying two four-by-six inch American Flags on Veterans Affairs Center fence
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch today announced that a California U.S. District Court has ruled that 75-year-old veteran Robert Rosebrock cannot be prosecuted for taking photographs at the “Great Lawn Gate” entrance to the Los Angeles National Veterans Park. The court also ruled, however, that Rosebrock must stand trial on Tuesday, April 18, for purportedly displaying two four-by-six inch American Flags above a Veterans Affairs (VA) fence on Memorial Day, May 30, 2016. The rulings were handed down in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California (United States of America v. Robert L. Rosebrock (No.CC11, 4920201; 4920202; 6593951)).
The photography-related charges stemmed from allegations that Rosebrock took photographs of VA police on Memorial Day 2016 and Sunday, June 12, 2016, without VA permission. In rejecting the VA photography charges, U.S. Magistrate Judge Steve Kim ruled that the regulation, as applied to the Great Lawn, was not reasonable under even the most lenient First Amendment standard. The VA attempted to justify its regulation as necessary to guard against invasive and distracting media activities and protect veterans’ privacy. The court rejected that claim, finding that if the VA wanted to protect veterans’ privacy, it would ban all photography, not just photography for news, commercial, or advertising purposes.
The court also found that the reasons offered by the VA for banning news photography on the Great Lawn was inconsistent with the numerous non-Veteran and non-therapeutic uses of the lawn allowed by the VA, which include using the lawn in the past for the LA Marathon, the San Francisco-Los Angeles Lifecycle cycling tour and fundraiser, celebrity carnivals/fundraiser, and parking for a PGA tournament. Rather than dismiss the photography charges, however, the court gave the VA the opportunity to drop the charges before Tuesday’s trial. If the VA fails to drop the photography charge, the court will dismiss them.
In addition to the photography charges, Rosebrock was also cited on Memorial Day 2016 for purportedly displaying the two napkin-sized American Flags on a fence adjacent to the Great Lawn Gate at the entrance to the Veterans Park. Rosebrock will be tried on that charge at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, April 18, in Courtroom 23 of the federal courthouse at 312 N. Spring Street, Los Angeles.
Rosebrock (below), 75, and fellow veterans, have been assembling at the site nearly every Sunday and Memorial Day since March 9, 2008, to protest what they believe is the VA’s failure to make full use of the valuable West Los Angeles property for the benefit and care of veterans, particularly homeless veterans.
Judicial Watch attorney Sterling E. Norris, a former Los Angeles County deputy district attorney, and Los Angeles-based defense attorney Robert Patrick Sticht are representing Rosebrock, who faces up to six months’ imprisonment if found guilty on the flag-hanging charge.
“Now that the court has seen fit to dismiss the dubious photography charges against Mr. Rosebrock, we hope that it will follow suit and acquit him of the vindictive flag-hanging charge as well,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “And we still hold out hope that Jeff Sessions’ Department of Justice will halt this absurd prosecution. No public good can be served by prosecuting a 75-year-old veteran over posting the American Flag at the entrance to a park honoring veterans on Memorial Day.”