A couple of Stolen Valor updates.

First, there’s a little more information on General McSoulPatch.

This Ain’t Hell covers it here, here, here, here and here. Like I said, I hate these guys. TSO and the fine folks at TAH go and get these guys. Keep it up.

Second, there’s a different case in the news, brought to our attention by the moral degenerates fine folks at DoublePlusUnDead.  I’m pretty sure TAH brought Rick Strandlof (aka Rick Duncan) to our attention  before. But now his defense is arguing that his fraudulent claims are protected speech. Jenn cautioned in our post Monday that there would likely be a First Amendment challenge to the SVA. I guess she’s smarter than me. I’m a stalwart defender of the First Amendment. Having said that, Strandlof’s attorneys’ and “civil liberty” groups  arguments doesn’t seem to hold water to me:

On Tuesday, the Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit civil liberties group based in Virginia, filed a friend-of-the-court brief in Strandlof’s case attacking the constitutionality of the Stolen Valor Act.

John Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute, said the law is poorly written and should not be used to prosecute people for simply telling lies.

“You have to redraft the law to prove a particularized damage,” he said. “If you run around Denver and yell out, ‘I got the Medal of Honor,’ you are guilty of the statute the way it is written.”

First, I would argue that by fraudulently claiming a decoration didn’t earn, he has diminished the value of the award to individuals who have earned it. Both in the military and in civilian life, there is value in being a decorated servicemember. Secondly, he solicited funds from people, justifying in part the trust people placed in his fiduciary duty by virtue of his decoration. And thirdly, his defense claims he has bi-polar disorder, but have not in any way shown that such a disorder causes him to truly believe he earned such an award, nor that he is unable to distinguish right from wrong in this case, making such an argument superfluous.

I’ve met a ton of people in bars and such who claimed to be some variant of super-soldier or another. For the most part, I just ignore them. If they’re just trying to impress some girl to get her home, that’s a venial sin(but still a sin!) as far as I’m concerned. But to present yourself to the public as a decorated veteran to enhance your standing in the community, solicit funds, or to advance a political or commercial agenda or career, is, and should remain, outside the bounds of protected speech under the First Amendment, and certainly subject to sanctions under criminal law as regards fraud and misrepresentation.

Any big brained law types wanna put me some knowledge?

10 thoughts on “A couple of Stolen Valor updates.”

  1. I wish I had a good answer, but I agree with your reasoning. To me, it is plain and simple fraud, and fraud is something that goes against the good order of society because it undermines trust.

    We trust each other to do the right thing, to keep our word, to deliver on promises. Our entire society is based upon that one simple word, because it’s the only way we can advance beyond simple survival.

    I understand that his attorney’s are just doing their job(s), but it doesn’t make it any less palatable.

    Society depends upon it’s military and it’s veterans for security. In turn, the military and veterans depend upon society to keep their promises to us. Again, that whole trust issue. Claiming awards and decorations, military service, etc as these folks have done violates the sanctity and purpose of those awards, and the trust we place in each other. It simply cannot be allowed to stand.

    Respects,

  2. I think you are on to something there, Tim. And I’ve long felt that a lot of the problem with the justice system in the US is a fundamental lack of trust by the populace, both in terms of trusting the state to pursue justice (instead of victory) and the legal community, in defense, to hold the state to its legitimate functions, rather than using any means to get their clients off.

  3. I’m a law type. Brain size is debatable.

    But I just read the law as it passed. On first pass, it seems to be ok. But then I engage the lawyer part of the brain and I can see a couple of potential problems that could lead to charges of selective prosecution.

    First, the section about false claims for receiving decorations states,

    “b) False Claims About Receipt of Military Decorations or Medals- Whoever falsely represents himself or herself, verbally or in writing, to have been awarded any decoration or medal authorized by Congress for the Armed Forces of the United States, any of the service medals or badges awarded to the members of such forces, the ribbon, button, or rosette of any such badge, decoration, or medal, or any colorable imitation of such item shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than six months, or both.’; and[.]”

    The problem is that the law is very broad. You could, if you had someone with say a political vendetta as the prosecutor, going after people who wear an unearned decoration for a purpose which I don’t think should be punishable in the courts (like the guy lying to get laid). Say some uneducated guy goes to a costume party in character and puts on some, what seems to him, shiny bits of cloth (because with the exception of the Medal of Honor, most civilians have no clue what any of the medals are or what they signify) on his costume as a soldier. All he has to say is “they’re my medals” and he could get prosecuted.

    Not saying it would happen. Only that it could. It would have been nice if the drafters had put in that this is an intentional crime. That would take care of the first scenario.

    The second issue, which you noted in your article, does make sense. If the law were amended to include a requirement that the person being using the unearned decoration for some sort of profit (in whatever form) then you make it less likely to be subject to be subject to selective prosecution problems.

    I agree that something should be done to these people who tarnish the value of the decorations for their own profit. It is reprehensible what some people will do or claim. It’s just that looking at the law as drafted, its about a sentence short of bring what it should be. Anyways, thats my off the cuff opinion (prior to looking at the case law on the subject or the drafters notes. What you didn’t expect a lawyer to hedge in their answer?)

  4. Neither a law type, nor a big brain… but hell, I like to run my yap. To claim “it was a lie, and that’s free speech” as a defense is ludicrous. If that defense holds up, we have to throw out every single charge of theft by deception, fraud, slander, libel, counterfeiting, et al. I mean come ON. LIES as protected speech? I’m not saying we should criminalize lying (otherwise what schoolchild will avoid Juvvie hall?), but I am saying deception as protected speech is a non-starter. Sure there is “harmless” lying (sure honey, I’d love to go clothes shopping with you), but I’m not sure claiming to be a airborne ranger ninja pirate as a means of picking up chicks is “harmless”. The douche that does that is committing fraud. He is attempting to take advantage of someone else by falsehoods. That’s just my opinion though.

  5. “I’ve long felt that a lot of the problem with the justice system in the US is a fundamental lack of trust by the populace.”

    I agree Brad, and I think the cause of it is due to a fundamental lack of integrity within our leadership.

  6. Check out the big brain on Bill…

    I don’t know about the whole lying to get laid thing because every man has lied to get laid. And if he sez he hasn’t, he’s either lying or has never gotten laid.

    But regarding wearing the uniform or decorations or medals unearned – It’s my understanding that Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children has a deal w/ Whollyweird that Marines portrayed on the screen have to have something wrong with their uniform. Unless, like Gunny Ermey, they are Marines.

    So, with that in mind, if you wanna wear a “Costume”, make sure it’s obviously FUBAR. Make yourself a Corporal Captain. Wear the fruit salad on the opposite side. If you wanna spin a yarn about your days as a Rangerriffic Ninja Pirate, go big or go home. Make it obviously so over the top that even the guys in the 101st get a kick outta your ability to tell a tale.

    But never claim it to be the truth or try to profit from it. As soon as you do, you deserve to be tied to an anvil and have a hammer taken to your balls.

  7. But regarding wearing the uniform or decorations or medals unearned – It’s my understanding that Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children has a deal w/ Whollyweird that Marines portrayed on the screen have to have something wrong with their uniform. Unless, like Gunny Ermey, they are Marines.

    Urban Legend.

  8. But never claim it to be the truth or try to profit from it. As soon as you do, you deserve to be tied to an anvil and have a hammer taken to your balls.

    Amen

  9. A very tricky subject… Let’s say for the fun of it, that a person lies about his Valor and is now decorated. As a part of free speech (Which every serviceperson has fought for) the free part does NOT say TRUTHFULL, it says free, what we of society has added is the words as long as it does not create Libel, Slander, Threats. SO the ability to say “The President sucks at basketball” is legal and you can express this publicly.
    (THE LEGAL DEFINATION) The right, guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, to communicate ideas and opinions without government intervention.
    This same Freedom we enjoy is at times questioned in matters like this, “Does the person have the right to say “I am a hero, and I have won 137 medals of valor” By the constitution, Yes he does.
    Now let’s take a stupid hypothetical and say we pass the law which says to lay claim to a medal given in war or peace time is not legal (IT makes a true medal winner feel bad” , Or “it is an insult to the Medal”, we have in some cases just censored a freedom. (Like it or not)
    Now let’s take a sharp attorney gifted with the ability to read between the lines and he engages a client who is seeking divorce and wants all her husband’s money and property… He takes this law and shows her years of service with the Husband and compares it to the soldier, although she has not won a medal, she nevertheless should have under the attorneys attack and the jury see’s this the attorneys way. He wins and the Husband is considered as having lied and cause the “Feel Bad emotion”. What has now occurred is a precedence which is taken by another attorney and win’s in a different arena of law, And on, And on, it goes. Although slowly, it does grow and the change is enlarged as people feel more emotion in areas they feel may be Just Wrong. What we ask for seems so simple today, can cause so many changes for tomorrow that we then would say. “I wish we had never gone there!
    Because someday a simple lie like “I think I love you” just to get the lady of the moment to loosen up would be considered that “Feel Bad” syndrome from above.
    On a different note, the fact that funds were received is a fraud, But at the same time, what if the funds gathered under the fraud, went to exactly what they were intended for or promised to? Is it still a Fraud? and Who lost out now? Ask yourself how far you want to take a Freedom? the same freedom so many soldiers died to protect?

  10. Actually I forgot to say, as a soldier and serviceman, I know what I did, and that is all that counts. I did a job, and I did it as best I know how. There were things I am not proud of and there are things that still haunt my dreams, by I live and I go on. It is my confidence in myself that keeps me alive and knowing who I am. If a person needs the strength of my medal, then I let him have it. If it makes him feel like a man, I release it. If his life is touched, then I have done something good. As for me I know what I have and no one can take it away, except one, and I will see him on the day of my judgement. In the meantime I will live only one day at a time.
    I sometimes think the only difference in a Soldier with a Medal and a Soldier without one is the simple fact of WHO saw him do this act of Valor. The one fact he serves is Valor alone.

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