Woman who torched Rainbow Flag placed in custody of health department

A new Rainbow Flag was installed at Little Prince hours after the previous flag was set ablaze.
A new Rainbow Flag was installed at Little Prince hours after the previous flag was set ablaze.
Donna Aceto

A woman who was accused of setting fire to a “Make America Gay Again” Rainbow Flag that was hanging outside a Soho restaurant avoided jail time after she was placed in the custody of the state health department for treatment for an unspecified mental illness.

“The defendant is committed to the department of health,” said Judge Althea Drysdale, who heard the criminal case, in Manhattan Supreme Court during a very brief hearing on May 9.

Angelina Cando, 30, was arrested in February after she used a lighter to set fire to the flag. It was hanging outside the Little Prince bistro on Prince St. Cando faced a top charge of criminal mischief, a lower level felony, and a second charge of arson in the fourth degree, also a lower level felony. Both were charged as hate crimes. She also faced a misdemeanor charge of arson in the fifth degree and six misdemeanor graffiti charges for writing “Jesus is King,” “S**k D**K,” and other remarks on two police cars and in a subway station. The arson was perceived as anti-LGBTQ.

Angelina Cando during a court hearing on May 2.
Angelina Cando during a court hearing on May 2.Dean Moses

Cando’s erratic behavior at an early hearing prompted the judge to order what is called a 730 exam, which tests if a defendant is fit to stand trial. Following the exam, Drysdale ruled on May 2 that Cando was not fit and gave the Manhattan district attorney’s office a week to respond. The remand will mean that Cando will remain in the custody of a state health facility until the doctors treating her determine that she is no longer a threat to herself or others.

Following the hearing, her attorney told Gay City News that this resolution was the best for Cando.

“We think it’s in her interests to get treatment,” said Richard Verchick, Cando’s attorney. He added that he would watch the duration of the custody and might challenge it if it lasts longer than any prison sentence she might have received if she had gone to trial. A conviction on the top charge could result in a sentence of up to seven years in prison.

Cando’s boyfriend, who declined to give his name, told Gay City News that Cando was never anti-gay and had “many gay friends.” Cando has no history of mental illness, the boyfriend said.

“It’s a total aberration,” he said. “The person who lit that flag is not the person I know.”

Little Prince did not immediately respond to a request for comment on May 9.