VA Sec. Against Prosecuting Army Vet for “Posting” U.S. Flag, Misled by Staff

The Secretary of Veterans Affairs was evidently misled by his top staff about a case involving an Army veteran criminally prosecuted for displaying the American Flag at a California VA facility, documents obtained by Judicial Watch show.

Robert Rosebrock, 75, was federally charged by the Department of Justice [DOJ] for hanging two napkin sized American Flags on the fence of a VA facility in Los Angeles on Memorial Day 2016.  The fence marks the entrance to the Los Angeles National Veterans Park. The facility includes the Veterans Home of West Los Angeles. Since 2008, Rosebrock and fellow veterans assembled at the gate weekly and on Memorial Day to protest the VA’s failure to make full use of the 300 plus acre property to benefit veterans, particularly those who are homeless.

Rosebrock was also charged with taking unauthorized photographs of the flag and VA police.

After seeing a news report about the case, VA Secretary David J. Shulkin asked his chief of staff, Vivieca Wright, to check if the story was correct, documents show.

In an email to his chief of staff, Shulkin writes that if the story is accurate “we should not be pressing charges and we should do a release saying so.”

Evidently, VA Secretary Shulkin’s inner circle did not want him to know that the story was accurate.

They circulated false reports about the case, it seems, to prevent their boss from intervening in the prosecution of a protester they evidently desired to stop.

The false claims made by top VA officials include that Rosebrock made the choice to go to court rather than pay a fine and that he faced no jail time.

Actually, Rosebrock had no choice to go to court because the DOJ was criminally prosecuting him.

That it was “too late” to intervene in the Rosebrock case and that it was “out of our hands” because the case was old.

At the time VA officials made this claim, the trial was still weeks away.

VA Deputy Undersecretary Steve Young was included in email exchanges dated March 4 and 5, 2017. In one email, Marie Weldon, director of the VA’s western healthcare network, tells Young that Rosebrock “was issued a citation from the VA Police and if he chose not to pay the fine then he elects to take it to court which is where it is now.”

Weldon added that Rosebrock had a history of hanging full-size flags upside down on the fence of VA property. “This was not a first offense and Rosebrock was aware of his consequences,” Weldon, who oversees the healthcare system for 1.2 million veterans, wrote to Young.

In another email addressed to Weldon, Wright and Young, the director of the West L.A. VA, Ann Brown, wrote: “Forgot to add—he is facing a $25 fine with NO jail time.”  [Wright, the VA Secretary’s chief of staff, forwarded this erroneous information to an email address [redacted] that appears to be her boss’s.]

Actually, if found guilty, Rosebrock would have faced up to six months in prison.

In any event, VA Secretary Shulkin was misled. He did not intervene. Rosebrock went to trial for the flag charges.

On April 18, 2017, a California U.S. District Court ruled that he was not guilty of violating federal law for displaying the two small flags. The judge ruled that the charges violated the First Amendment and dismissed the case.  Judicial Watch helped represent Rosebrock.

The DOJ appealed the dismissal of the charges.




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Frank Parlato


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