House candidate facing possible charges in Pride flag incident

Posted 8/6/20

While candidates across Washington wait to see the results of Tuesday’s Primary Election, a Port Ludlow man seeking a seat for the 24th District in the Washington House of Representatives is …

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House candidate facing possible charges in Pride flag incident

Posted

While candidates across Washington wait to see the results of Tuesday’s Primary Election, a Port Ludlow man seeking a seat for the 24th District in the Washington House of Representatives is waiting to see what charges will be filed against him following an incident where he allegedly pulled down a rainbow  pride flag that was hanging at a church on Bainbridge Island.

Daniel Charles Svoboda, 41, is facing possible charges of harassment and malicious mischief after he removed the flag and warned people at the church that he’d come back if they put the flag back up.

Authorities said Svoboda has a history of confrontations in the Pacific Northwest over rainbow flags and confrontations with members of the LGBTQ community.

The latest incident happened July 21 on Bainbridge Island. Police were called to Seabold United Methodist Church on Highway 305 after employees of Island Time Activities, a nonprofit that works with people with developmental disabilities which leases space at the church for its program, said they saw a man take down the pride flag and told one of the workers he would pull the flag back down if it was put back up again.

The man, who was wearing a red shirt with the word “Trump” on the front, was later identified by a Bainbridge police detective as Svoboda.

Svoboda is a candidate for the 24th Legislative District, Position 1. 

His candidate affiliation is “Trump Republican Party,” and in his voter pamphlet statement, he wrote he has no previous elective experience “and therefore will be bringing a bold fresh new vision to the capitol.”

In an email to The Leader, Svoboda acknowledged taking down the flag.

“The reason I took the flag down is because it sends the wrong message to the very world that the church is supposed to be saving. The mission of the church/body of Christ is to be a beacon of light unto a lost, dark and hurting world and to be a place of salvation from one’s own sins. The church has lost her way and fails to communicate this message when it flies a sodomite flag,” he wrote. 

Svoboda has been the subject of similar complaints in the past, according to Bainbridge police.

Svoboda was arrested in Portland, Oregon in May 2015 for scaling the side of the Silverado, a gay bar, so he could take the rainbow flag off the roof. He was arrested for suspicion of third-degree theft and a misdemeanor, according to media reports.

The following year, in September 2016, Svoboda made headlines while he was a cab driver and stopped his car outside Scandals, a gay bar in Portland, and pulled a bullhorn out of his trunk and began preaching against homosexuals, according to media reports. He was later fired by the cab company.

Portland news outlets said Svoboda was seen back at Scandals on July 26, 2017  — the same day that President Trump announced he would reinstate a ban on transgendered people serving in the military  — and began harassing patrons at the bar.

EXTENSIVE BACKGROUND

Bainbridge police said a criminal history check of Svoboda found arrests for harassment, intimidation, disorderly conduct, forgery, assault, theft, and driving violations.

The Bainbridge case file also includes an incident report from the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office from April 20, 2020 when an employee at the Port Townsend Paper Company called police when Svoboda showed up at the paper mill.

Police were told that Svoboda had previously worked as a trucker for a Clallam County logging company that does business with the mill, but was fired after a mill employee reported being harassed by Svoboda. He was contacted by deputies and left without incident, according to the sheriff’s office report.

Bainbridge police have also downloaded videos from Svoboda’s Facebook page  — where he talks about being fired from two jobs after confrontations with people about their sexuality  — into Evidence.com.

His police case file also includes Svoboda’s candidate statement in the Primary Election voters guide for his run for the 24th District, which notes: “no more special rights for women, people of color, homosexuals and those that wish to misrepresent their gender, tribes, and illegal aliens and anyone else that believes they deserve special rights. I am pro life and do not believe in a women’s right to vote or kill their child.”

The flag incident on Bainbridge Island happened Monday, July 20.

The two witnesses at the church said a man pulled down the “Pride Flag” and folded it up and placed it on the ground in front of them.  

Svoboda allegedly said, “If it gets put back up, I will take it down.”

The women watched as the man then walked to a silver Ford sedan he had parked in the church parking lot and drove away, according to police records released by the city of Bainbridge Island earlier this week after The Leader filed a public records request.

One of the witnesses took a photograph of the car, with the license plate clearly visible, and police discovered the vehicle was registered to Svoboda’s wife.

Police matched the description of the man who took down the flag to a photo of Svoboda on his Facebook page.

An officer soon discovered Svoboda was a candidate running for a District 24 seat in the House, and called him to talk about the incident.

Svoboda declined to meet in person, and also said he did not want his conversation with the officer recorded.

CANDIDATE ADMITS ROLE

According to a police report of the interview, Svoboda admitted to taking the flag down: “Svoboda said that he was driving by the church about 3:30 to 4 p.m. on Monday and saw a ‘rainbow’ or ‘gay pride’ flag displayed on the property of the Methodist church alongside
SR 305. He felt that by the church displaying the flag that it was sending the wrong message, especially by a church. Svoboda said that he was a member of a church but not the Methodist church.”

Svoboda again said the church was sending the wrong message, and said he did not threaten anyone at the church. He said one of the people asked him to leave, and he did.

Svoboda also said that since the church was a nonprofit, anyone should be allowed to come onto the property.

“Svoboda also asked how he should go about having the flag removed from the church property,” the police report continued. “He mentioned a petition, a court order or asking the city council to order the flag removed. Svoboda said that if he was flying a ‘White Lives Matter’ or a Confederate flag that he was sure he would be forced to have it taken down.”

An officer spoke to one of the witnesses, who said the man who took down the flag appeared “very angry” and had to be asked to leave at least three times before he finally did.

The church decided July 28 to press charges against Svoboda.

Detective Sgt. Scott Weiss said the case had been referred to the prosecutor’s office, and that charges would likely be pursued in Kitsap County District Court. Harassment and malicious mischief are gross misdemeanors.

NOT THE FIRST TIME

Rev. Cindy Roberts said the rainbow flag has been stolen in the past, and the newest one was raised after generous donations from the community.

Roberts said the church’s decision to press charges wasn’t about condemnation but reconciliation.

“Clearly he has a history and we happened to be one of his historical victims, for lack of a better term. Somebody needs to get him headed toward reconciliation,” the pastor said.

The pride flag is on display because Seabold United Methodist Church is a reconciling congregation.

“That is something the church itself has decided to promote within the denomination and as a justice issue,” Roberts said. “We wanted to do something to let the greater community know that that was a justice issue for us.”

“We’re just practicing what we believe is an important mission in the church,” Roberts said.

The pastor said the church is planning to send a letter to Svoboda, written from the perspective of those who were traumatized by the event.

“We are doing what we think we are called to do. Part of that is reaching out to those who interpret our mission or try to tell us what we believe,” Roberts said.

Comments

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Libby Wennstrom

Given that these events happened in July, and that Mr. Svoboda was a candidate for state office in the August 4 election, it’s odd that the Leader chose to run this story AFTER the election rather than before. More than 1400 Jefferson County Voters chose to vote for this man - would they have done so if they knew about these incidents?

In the past, the Leader had extensive local/regional election coverage. The August 5th paper has no mention of the election at all. I’m glad this story is coming out, but a more timely release might have been more useful.

Friday, August 7