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Man who stole U.S. flag and set it on fire in front of Portland police precinct gets probation

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A man who swiped the American flag from outside Gus J. Solomon U.S. Courthouse in downtown Portland and then set it on fire in front of the Police Bureau’s Central Precinct was sentenced Monday to one year of probation.

Jeffrey Richard Singer, 33, had pleaded guilty to theft of government property.

The theft occurred on Sept. 19, when prosecutors said Singer stole the flag and then marched with it in a crowd to Central Precinct during one of the nightly protests held in the city after the May 25 murder of George Floyd.

U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown also ordered Singer to repay the government $218.50 in restitution for the destroyed flag.

“Stealing government property from outside a federal courthouse in Portland last fall was not the crime of the century, the decade or even the year,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Ratcliffe wrote to the court.

“But it was a crime, and the defendant deserves to be punished for it. His misdemeanor conviction and continuing supervision are adequate to account for the seriousness of his offense.”

Agents from Homeland Security Investigations watched Singer commit the crimes and also break out several Starbucks windows with a baton, according to Ratcliffe.

Two weeks later, Singer charged at an officer who was trying to arrest him, injuring the officer’s thumb, revealing his “recurring role in the nightly violence in Portland last summer and fall,” Ratcliffe wrote in his sentencing memo.

Singer was indicted on Oct 20 and charged with theft of government property and civil disorder. He was arrested and spent 18 hours in custody before he was released with the conditions he abide by a curfew and obtain a full-time job.

Assistant Federal Public Defender Francesca Freccero, who represented Singer, argued against curfew or home detention restrictions for Singer during his probation, noting that he had followed his pre-trial release conditions for the past eight months.

Freccero said Singer carried “strong and sincerely held views” and his offense occurred under “very tumultuous circumstances” when he was participating in a protest.

The judge agreed not to impose those restrictions but told Singer: “You’re not being sentenced today for any beliefs that you have. You’re being sentenced today for this act of destroying the American flag.”

“It wasn’t your flag to burn,” Brown said. “It belonged to the government and was something that was part of the marking of the Gus J. Solomon United States Courthouse that’s stood in our community for many years.”

As part of his probation, Singer was ordered to undergo a mental health assessment for potential anger management counseling.

The civil disorder charge was dismissed as part of the negotiated plea agreement.

Singer is the third defendant to be sentenced and one of four who pleaded guilty in federal court in a protest-related prosecution.

Of a total of 99 federal protest-related prosecutions in the past year, 50 were dropped by prosecutors. Thirty-two cases are pending with trial dates scheduled. Fourteen others are nearing resolution, according to Kevin Sonoff, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The pending prosecutions include defendants charged with civil disorder, destruction of government property, arson and assault on a federal officer.

— Maxine Bernstein

Email mbernstein@oregonian.com; 503-221-8212

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