Two men have been charged in Santa Barbara County Superior Court in connection with the theft and burning of Pride flags in the Santa Ynez Valley last summer. 

Santa Barbara County District Attorney John Savrnoch on Thursday announced the filing of misdemeanor criminal charges on Thursday.

Between July 18 and July 20, a Pride flag was stolen from a pole at St. Mark’s-in-the-Valley Episcopal Church in Los Olivos, with the flag burned.

A second Pride flag was taken in Ballard.

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office investigated the incident and recommended that criminal charges be filed against those involved.

Deputies identified two young adult suspects who allegedly admitted to the thefts as well as burning one of the flags in a video they shared on social media, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

Avi Stone Williams, 18, and Joshua Jerome Eligino, 19, have been charged with two misdemeanor counts of petty theft and one misdemeanor violation of civil rights. 

Williams and Eligino are set to be arraigned in Department 9 in Santa Maria on April 19. 

In accordance with the Victims’ Bill of Rights, the District Attorney’s Office has met with the victims and members of the community, and received input on how they have been affected by these events. 

The Rev. Randall Day, from St. Mark’s, said Thursday that some people may wish the matter had ended without criminal charges, but he believes it’s important to be clear about public accountability and basic respect.

“For the young men who are being charged, it is incredibly important for them to understand that there are consequences to damaging actions,” Day said. “Their actions negatively impacted other individuals and whole communities of people, families, children – their neighbors.

“I hope this is an experience of growth for these young men that helps them realize more constructive paths of living and self-expression in the future,” he added.

“This growth may come through treatment, therapy, or community service, but has the potential of being an open door to a brighter future for them.”

The filing of charges also shows that “everyone deserves to be safe and that law enforcement, the District Attorney’s Office, our county government, and members of our community will join together to assure that safety,” Day said.

In early August, a large crowd gathered at the church for a ceremony marking the return of the Pride flag to the church grounds. 

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Janene Scully | Noozhawk North County Editor

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at