Good behavior will expunge charges for two men accused in Williamsburg flag theft

WILLIAMSBURG  — Charges against two Virginia Beach men accused of stealing the Virginia and American flags from in front of the city's municipal building in April could be dropped if they if they don't raise any legal red flags.

Findings were deferred against William P. Christie, 19, and John P. Pezzella, 20, on charges of trespassing and underage possession of alcohol on June 19 in General District Court. A finding on a charge of possession of marijuana against Pezzella was also postponed. Charges of attempted grand larceny and drunk in public against both men were dropped by the prosecution.

"I'm giving you an opportunity to have these charges dismissed," Judge Colleen Killilea told Pezzella. "Take advantage of it."

At 3:20 a.m. on April 12, a Williamsburg police officer observed four men near the flag poles in front of the municipal building, according to Maj. Greg Riley with Williamsburg police. A criminal complaint against Pezzella states the officer watched as Christie, Pezzella and two other men removed the American and Virginia flags from the flag poles.

Riley said the suspects all fled as the officer pulled into the parking lot. Complaints against Christie and Pezzella indicate both men fled on foot. The documents note Christie was apprehended at "city shop, and Pezzella was arrested late in the woods behind the municipal building.

Gaten said Christie admitted to police that he had five drinks that night. He said following Pezzella's arrest, a pipe with burn residue on it, a baggie with suspected marijuana and a bottle of mango Bacardi were found on him. The complaint against him also notes Pezzella "openly admitted he was drunk."

"They made some poor choices that night," said Richard Rizk, Pezzella's defense attorney. " I don't think it was one of these situations where they set out to tamper with the flag."

While a finding was withheld in both cases, Killilea did order Christie and Pezzella to do 100 and 125 hours of community service respectively in addition to remaining drug and alcohol free until the case is reviewed next summer.

Robertson can be reached at 757-345-2342.