Police: Sayville man stole LGBT flag 6 times from same church

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SAYVILLE -

Police say a Sayville man stole several LGBT flags from the Sayville Congregational United Church of Christ.

Prosecutors say 21-year-old Ronald Tyler Witt was caught on surveillance video stealing the flags and was charged with six counts of petit larceny as a hate crime.

Pastor Ray Bagnuolo says the LGBT flag has been stolen more than six times from the church's lawn. After the second theft, he says put up a large sign that read, "It is an act of hate. Do you realize that? This is hurtful."

Despite the sign, police say Witt returned four more times to take the flag, each time leaving alone the nearby American and POW flags.

At Witt's arraignment Wednesday, his attorney told the judge that the incident was being "blown out of proportion" and called it a prank. Witt's father said his son is "not a bad kid."

Bagnuolo says he forgives Witt and would welcome him to the church.

The prosecutor said in court that Witt is currently enrolled -- but is "doing terribly" -- in a court-ordered diversion program for people with drug and alcohol issues. Because of that, the judge set bail at $12,000 and said Witt will have to wear a GPS monitor if released.

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