ST. PAUL (AP) -- The Minnesota Court of Appeals has upheld a 14-year-old boy's conviction for burning crosses in front of a school, ruling that the crime wasn't protected by the boy's First Amendment right to free speech.
The boy burned two crosses in May 1999 at Sanford Middle School in south Minneapolis, later telling police he did so out of frustration about the way he was treated by minority students there.
''Cross-burning, a form of symbolic speech, is an expressive activity that the United States Supreme Court has held to be protected under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution,'' Appeals Court Judge G. Barry Anderson wrote in his ruling.
However, the boy was charged under a state law that prohibits minors from possessing explosive and incendiary devices. Anderson noted that even if the boy had burned a rectangle or something with no special message, he could have faced the same charges.
He wrote that the law doesn't violate the Constitution because it was meant to protect public safety and does not regulate cross-burning as a method of expression.
Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar said she was pleased the conviction was upheld.
''It was an upsetting event for the community to have burning crosses placed in a public schoolyard,'' she said. ''The fact that a 14-year-old did it made the event more disturbing.''
Both cross-burnings were discovered in the evening and cleaned up before students arrived the next day.
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