Virginia: Judge Rules Novelty Flag Is 'Obnoxious but Not Obscene'

Virginia: Judge Rules Novelty Flag Is 'Obnoxious but Not Obscene'

WARRENTON, Va. — A dispute between Virginia neighbors morphed into an obscenity trial after a Fauquier County farmer hung a flag reading “Eat a Giant Bag of Dicks” under a picture of a unicorn giving two middle fingers.

Last week, according to local news site Fauquier.com, sod farmer Michael Hawkins “was tried on an obscenity charge in District Court over images he had hung on a fence facing his neighbors’ home.”

Hawkins was acquitted of the charge in the August 18 trial before General District Court Judge Jessica Foster.

At the trial, Hawkins’ attorney, Timothy Olmstead of Manassas, “argued that the images on the flags did not meet the state’s three-part standard for obscenity: that the material must appeal to prurient interest, that it must be patently offensive and that it must have no literary, artistic or scientific value.”

Olmstead, according to the report, “referenced a case where words were found to be obnoxious and offensive but did not appeal to prurient interest — a shameful or morbid interest in things sexual — and therefore were not obscene.”

Judge Foster ruled that, although the flags were “obnoxious,” the matter “doesn’t rise to the level of a criminal offense.”

A Byzantine Neighborly Dispute

The original cause of the neighborly dispute is a byzantine tale pitting the “Eat a Gigantic Bag of Dicks” flag-hanging farmer against locals Jennifer and Steven Rainwater and Patricia Hupp, who, according to the news site, “are engaged in a long-running battle with Hawkins over his importation of thousands of cubic yards of fill dirt onto his next-door farm, which they claim has damaged the air, their property and the environment. Hawkins says he is building a sod farm, a claim upheld by a circuit court judge. The neighbors and county officials claim the farm is a ruse to allow him to take in tons of excess construction site dirt and get paid for it.”

In late April or early May, according to Jennifer Rainwater, “two of Hawkins’ workers parked on an easement through the Rainwaters’ property to shout insults at her. About that same time, she said, three flags appeared on a 10-foot high fence that Hawkins had erected between their property and his. The flags were hung on the side of the fence facing the Rainwater house.”

Fauquier.com describes the decorations as two flags in black and white depicting a middle finger, flanking “a third colored flag that depicted a [unicorn] holding up two middle fingers instead of hooves, and the inscription, ‘Eat a giant bag of [dicks].’ Hawkins told a reporter he bought the flags on the internet.”

After his acquittal, Hawkins “pledged to display even more of the same signs, which are printed on flags,” Fauquier.com reported.

“I’m gonna put some more up tomorrow, whether they like it or not,” he told the news site reporter on the courthouse steps.

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