Skip to comments.(Stolen Valor Act) High Court Dilemma: Can Lie About Medal Be Crime?
Posted on 02/19/2012 7:16:27 AM PST by DogByte6RER
High Court Dilemma: Can Lie About Medal Be Crime?
Xavier Alvarez was in good company when he stood up at a public meeting and called himself a wounded war veteran who had received the top military award, the Medal of Honor.
Alvarez was lying about his medal, his wounds and his military service, but he wasn't the first man to invent war exploits.
He was, however, one of the first people prosecuted under a 2006 federal law aimed at curbing false claims of military valor.
Concerns that the law improperly limits speech and turns people into criminals for things they say, rather than do, are at the heart of the Supreme Court's review of his case and the Stolen Valor Act.
Veterans groups have come to the aid of the Obama administration, which calls the law a narrowly crafted effort to protect the system of military awards that was established during the Revolutionary war by Gen. George Washington. The high court will hear the case Wednesday, which is Washington's 280th birthday.
"They're committing fraud. They're impersonating somebody else. They take on attributes of somebody else, attributes of a hero who served honorably," said Pam Sterner, whose college term paper calling for the law wound up in the hands of members of Congress. "When you do that, impersonating someone else, that's fraud, not freedom of speech."
Civil liberties groups, writers, publishers and news media outlets, including The Associated Press, have told the justices they worry the law, and especially the administration's defense of it, could lead to more attempts by government to regulate speech.
When he established military decorations in 1782, seven years before he was elected as the nation's first president, Washington himself also prescribed severe military punishment for soldiers who purported to be medal winners but weren't.
(Excerpt) Read more at nctimes.com ...
In this photo taken Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2012, Doug and Pam Sterner are photographed in their home in Alexandria, Va. Pam is the author of a college paper that led to the drafting of a federal law in 2006, the Stolen Valor Act, aimed at curbing false claims of military valor, and Doug exposes phony medal winners.
Military Times Hall of Valor database:
If barry’s reelected it won’t matter anymore.
When I joined the Army National Guard in 1979, I quickly determined that IF everyone that told me they had been in close combat with “Charlie” had actually EVER fired their weapons, Vietnam would be a state by now.
Yes, you’re right. If a person lies about his military service, he probably lies about other matters as well.
If one were to hire a person who lied about his military service, for example, and if part of the hiring decision was based on the person’s military service, then you might end up hiring someone who likely will lie about other things, including: workplace thefts, treatment of co-workers, excuses for showing up to work late or missing work, about why a report or project is not being done on time, and so on, the list can go on.
The same is true elsewhere. A person (note, I do not say man) who lies about his military service to someone he marries may also lie about whether or not he cheats, has a mistress, is hiding money, is planning on using the relationship solely for financial gain, and again the list can go on.
This issue may not always seem like the most important one in the world, and probably isn’t to a lot of people sadly enough, but it is just one more example of how far our country has fallen morally and spiritually to the degree that people think that it is unimportant.
Not only should it be federal crime, but being found guilty should carry mandatory prison time for each award falsely claimed and the sentence for each award falsely claimed should run consecutively.
Falsely claiming military rank should add another separate stint in prison.
I have to admit I’m concerned about freedom of speech. Especially when someone like obama is president. This was my concern with the Patriot Act. Bush pushed it. And then look who followed Bush.
The freedom of speech also means the freedom to not be truthful. Slim Whitman sang “It’s a sin to tell a lie”. He didn’t say it was against the law unless you’re under oath. Just expose them for the frauds they are and hope they’re shunned by society. And maybe get the crap kicked out of them by a REAL hero.
“I am a federal agent.” “I am a medal of honor winner.”
If #1, the prohibition of impersonating a federal agent is illegal, then what makes the second a question of ‘free speech’? Answer: Liberals like lying about military records.
That this is even before the SCOTUS is kinda stupid.
I’m afraid I disagree. I am a veteran who has been in combat. I think its reprehensible for someone to lie about being awarded medals, especially for profit. However, the public shame and ridicule they endure when they are outed and exposed is sufficient. There is no need to clog the already overburdened federal courts with cases involving fakers. Look at most of them: overweight buffoons who can barely fit into the uniforms they aren’t wearing correctly. They’re easy to spot. Their outlandish stories also make them easy to spot. These guys are sort of pathetic in their quest for attention, but shouldn’t be made criminals just because they tell tall tales.
If they defrauded people out of money, they can be prosecuted for fraud, theft, etc... It isn’t necessary to make the fakery a separate federal crime.
Alvarez was probably in the Second Special Forces Force Recon Para-Rescue Delta Force Ranger Seal Team.
Suppose someone claims to be a doctor or a federal judge? Is that also free speech?
Alvarez was probably in the Second Special Forces Force Recon Para-Rescue Delta Force Ranger Seal Team.”
Hey! That was my outfit, too, and I don’t remember Alvarez. ;-)
I get your take ... I don’t think the Stolen Valor Act should be interpreted so broadly that other forms of speech are restricted.
For example, would it be a crime for an actor (say Jack Nicholson playing a decorated Marine Corps officer in a movie) to don military medals and decorations for a role in a film or play? Of course not.
Nor should there be an issue if a teenaged kid dressed up for Halloween as a soldier zombie and had some military decoration pinned on his costume.
I think the act should be used to prevent fraudsters from using their fake “status” to obtain something of value, say a free VFW dinner for recognition of implied military service, or a job, or school tuition help, or political office, etc.
I can claim to be a doctor or judge as long as I don’t try to treat you for your illness or put on a robe and walk into a court room and start sentencing people. That’s where the line should be drawn.
We would have to shut down every bar if we arrested the patrons that were lying, however, lying about military service to an employer or any other person for monetary gain is fraud and should be prosectued as fraud.
I don’t believe the 1st amendment protects every sound that comes out of a human’s mouth. It wasn’t put there to protect lies.
I don’t know if there’s any law against lying about earning a military medal I don’t see any Constitutional objections to one.
In order to prove a crime the State needs to prove a criminal intent. So, sitting in a bar b.sing about made up military service probably doesn’t rise to a crime.
I tend to agree even though I still believe lying about military service (never mind medal-claiming!) is bottom-of-the-barrell. Yet I can’t help but wonder about the hierarchy of lies involved here. Is it a crime to lie to the Veterans Administration about your service or your ailments as a result of that service? Thousands, maybe even tens of thousands, of nonveterans have and are receiving medical help from VA hospitals. Even actual veterans are receiving VA help for phony ailments. Does this, too, affect Freedom of Speech, or is it just plain fraud?
Sorry. As an attorney I can tell you, free speech includes the right to lie. Cops do it all the time when they are questioning suspects.
Peopole walk into police stations every day and claim crimes they never committed. Is that a crime? sheesh If we go down this path soon we will have statutes with definition of “true” in them and we will be up a creek without a paddle
Sure you remember him. We called him “Agent Orange,” don’t you remember?
Actually, I believe it is a crime to make a false report, whether you are accusing yourself or someone else.
These Stolen Valor utterances are statements of objective fact, not opinion, and if they can be proven to be lies then where in the First Amendment does it say "no consequences?"
Jesse (The Body) (The Governor) Ventura:
“You’re talking to an ex-Navy Seal here.” Playboy, November, 1999.
“I was in the SEALs during the Vietnam War, so I experienced firsthand how we, as Americans, were affected by that conflict.” Rolling Stone, December 30, 1999
“We’re a proud organization. If anyone tries to pretend they’re a SEAL, God help them.” Jesse Ventura Autobiography: I Ain’t Got Time to Bleed
OK Jesse, how about some reality:
Ventura graduated with BUD/S class 58 in December 1970 and was part of Underwater Demolition Team 12 (UDT). The UDTs were merged with the US Navy SEALs in 1983, 8 years after Ventura had left the Navy.
Ventura never had a 5326 NEC (Seals), he was 5321 UDT and had no claim to being a SEAL and certainly none to SEAL Team One. He also did no combat UDT.
They made him a governor. Ventura used his freedom of speech to lie, embellish, promote himself and make a fortune doing so.
What would it matter if he claimed decorations or devices that he didn’t earn? Fraud is fraud right?
Freedom of speech also means freedom to lie or deceive. The government should step in only when someone is harmed by another’s lies.
Of course it’s insulting to vets with authentic decorations and devices.
Have we gone too far by criminalizing insults?
My Dad has a Purple Heart with a star (twice wounded) at Saipan. But it is not listed as an authorized decoration or device in his SRB. I have seen his wounds, that were documented by Navy Physicians on Saipan and the VA Hospitals he was treated for the rest of his life.
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