A man who admitted lowering and tearing up a Mexican flag that was flying by itself on the UNM campus last September has been found guilty by a jury of criminal damage to property.
Peter Lynch received a deferred six-month sentence on supervised probation. He also must perform 48 hours of community service, attend anger management, replace the flag and pay court and probation fees.
In closing arguments Wednesday morning, the defense argued that Peter Lynch's action should be protected under the first amendment.
The prosecution noted that the flag was not Lynch's to damage. It said the fact that Lynch admitted to taking the flag down and then destroying it required the jury to return a guilty verdict.
On Tuesday, Lieutenant Pat Davis of the UNM Police Department testified that when Lynch saw the Mexican flag flying without an American flag, he first reported it to the office of UNM’s Dean of Students, then to the Officer of Veteran Affairs, but wasn’t satisfied with the response.
Davis says Lynch, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, then began to take the flag down as others gathered nearby.
“At least one person encouraged him by saying, ‘Yeah, brother, go ahead,’ and ‘Thank you,’ and some other things he heard in the background,” Davis says Lynch explained.
Davis says that Lynch told him he then became emotional and “took the flag in his hands and ripped it in half.”
UNM ROTC students admit that they had neglected to lower the Mexican banner when they lowered the U.S. flag at sunset last September because they thought a Mexican student organization would do that.
Davis said that Lynch told officers that the lone Mexican flag flying without an U.S. flag “could be perceived as a sign of war or that the territory had been taken over by another country and he felt it was his obligation to remove the flag and enforce that code.”
Davis says that, in the end, Lynch told police that his emotions got the better of him.
“He knew it was wrong,” Davis testified, “he shouldn’t have done it, but he just got caught up in the emotion of the moment and thought [what he did] was appropriate at the time.”