Court: stolen valor is just “freedom of speech”

posted at 2:01 pm on January 13, 2016 by Jazz Shaw

This apparently just isn’t going to be my shift to write about good news. Out in San Francisco (where else?) the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has thrown out the previous conviction of a Marine who was found to be wearing multiple medals for honors he did not earn. The Supreme Court already ruled on this issue before, but it’s still a sad reminder that engaging in stolen valor is now considered freedom of speech.

A military veteran persuaded a federal appeals court Monday to overturn his conviction for wearing a medal he didn’t earn.

An 11-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said a portion of a federal law that made it a crime to wear an unearned military medal violated freedom of speech rights.

The panel found that wearing a medal conveys a message, which is protected by the 1st Amendment.

The Military Times picked up the story as well, and it’s not hard to imagine that a lot of our veterans and active duty personnel aren’t thrilled about it. But the question has been through the courts up and down the line and we seem to have lost out on this one. Unfortunately I suppose I need to resort to the same lesson I frequently dish out to others and remind myself that supporting the Free Speech provision of the Constitution requires protecting unpopular, or even disgusting, outrageous speech. Nobody needs to protect popular speech that the majority approves of.

But it’s still tough to swallow. The people who actually earn those medals are frequently the last ones who would ever brag about it. It’s the visual signal of the gratitude of both the military and the nation for extraordinary service rendered. For someone to appropriate those honors and use them to gain some advantage – sometimes as little as a free meal or cup of coffee – is just insulting right down to the bone. Sometimes it gets even worse and cases of stolen valor show up among people running for elected office.

While the original 2005 Stolen Valor Act was struck down, it’s worth noting that a new version was signed into law in 2013. But it only applies if the fraud is perpetrated with the intent of materially benefiting from it. (Military.com)

An earlier version, passed in 2005, was struck down in June 2012 when the Supreme Court ruled that lying about military heroics was constitutionally protected speech unless there was intent to gain some benefit or something of value by fraud.

The law signed Monday at the White House includes such a provision, making it illegal to make the claims with the intent to obtain money, property or other tangible benefits.

Veterans organizations were quick to applaud Congress and the President for acting quickly on the amended version of the law.

“I think this was necessary because people were using it to receive the benefits of decorations of valor, and they were getting monetary benefit from it,” said John Stovall, director of national security and foreign relations for The American Legion. “That’s why we supported the amended version, not to infringe on anyone’s First Amendment rights but to protect the reputation and meaning of the decorations.”

It’s better than nothing, but I have to admit that it still leaves me without any full sense of satisfaction. People can be convicted under the revised law, but it’s actually only a conviction for the taking of goods or services under false pretenses. It doesn’t really address the actual theft going on, which is far more dastardly.

StolenValor


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Comment pages: 1 2 3

I wouldn’t put myself in the position to be yelled at by a drill sergeant.

Tlaloc on January 13, 2016 at 7:19 PM

Cowards never do.

Solaratov on January 13, 2016 at 9:27 PM

And I care…

Tlaloc on January 13, 2016 at 8:28 PM

Desperately.

Solaratov on January 13, 2016 at 9:33 PM

Aaaannnnd……Bishbop!!

Solaratov on January 13, 2016 at 9:34 PM

Thanks for being thankful for getting called out.
.
blink on January 13, 2016 at 8:25 PM

.
Well if by “called out” you mean noticing I am smart strongly opposed to recognition of military valor enough to avoid ending up in the military then sure…
.
Tlaloc on January 13, 2016 at 8:29 PM

.

listens2glenn on January 13, 2016 at 9:54 PM

Jazz, you are the most anti-liberty author on this site. What the f*ck is wrong with you? If nobody is hurt by the “stolen valor” claim, then it’s nothing more than a lie. In a free country, we don’t throw people in jail for lies unless those lies actually cause material harm.

TBSchemer on January 13, 2016 at 10:11 PM

Morning everyone,…well,…um:
—————————

Military Trending [email protected] 4h4 hours ago

A Judges Panel Just Ruled Stolen Valor As Free Speech http://military.trendolizer.com/2016/01/a-judges-panel-just-ruled-stolen-valor-as-free-speech.html
================================================

US Court: Wearing Unearned Military Medals Is Free Speech

By paul elias, associated press

SAN FRANCISCO — Jan 11, 2016, 6:11 PM ET
****************************************

A federal appeals court on Monday tossed out a veteran’s conviction for wearing military medals he didn’t earn, saying it was a form of free speech protected by the Constitution.

A specially convened 11-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the First Amendment allows people to wear unearned military honors.
(More….)
==========

http://abcnews.go.com/Weird/wireStory/us-court-wearing-unearned-military-medals-free-speech-36225315

Military Trending [email protected] 6h6 hours ago

#Army’s #25thInfantryDivision to Lose 1,200 Troops, 330 Strykers #Strykerbrigade #Hawaii http://military.trendolizer.com/2016/01/armys-25th-infantry-division-to-lose-1200-troops-
===============

https://twitter.com/militarylizer?lang=en

canopfor on January 13, 2016 at 4:54 AM

canopfor on January 13, 2016 at 10:50 PM

And tbschumer reveals himself to be as big an anti american @$$ as the talking pile of dog $hit tlaloc…

Rogue on January 13, 2016 at 11:17 PM

So many pathetic kneeling sycophants out there get off at the idea of prostrating themselves in front of somebody wearing a gaudy trinket that their employer, the federal government, gave them. Government medals wouldn’t even exist in a free civilization. As such, I think less of anybody who waves them around, no matter whether they “earned” them or not. Might as well be displaying your “25 years of service to the EPA” plaque. Its a pathetic that some people think thats something to be proud of.

Daikokuco on January 13, 2016 at 11:36 PM

And tbschumer reveals himself to be as big an anti american @$$ as the talking pile of dog $hit tlaloc…

Rogue on January 13, 2016 at 11:17 PM

Sorry buddy, but I believe in making America a free country. That’s what our forefathers fought and died for. If you don’t respect that, you are sh!tting on their graves.

TBSchemer on January 13, 2016 at 11:42 PM

How is it these trolls go on and on and on and on in these really basic discussions?
What sustains them? What do they get out of it? Who is paying them?

Kenosha Kid on January 14, 2016 at 12:12 AM

How is it these trolls go on and on and on and on in these really basic discussions?
What sustains them? What do they get out of it? Who is paying them?

Kenosha Kid on January 14, 2016 at 12:12 AM

Well, um, I think they had a meeting?

For some reason I imagine their boss looks like Ed Asner (including the partially rolled up sleeves) and constantly gets on them about making their quotas like Charlie Sheen’s boss in Wall Street.

But, I could be wrong…

Dr. ZhivBlago on January 14, 2016 at 12:58 AM

The judges might have a different perspective if people were going around claiming to be retired jurists…..but since that line of work engenders almost no admiration from the public-at-large, there’s scant worry about that happening.

Another Drew on January 14, 2016 at 3:21 AM

Might as well be displaying your “25 years of service to the EPA” plaque. Its a pathetic that some people think thats something to be proud of.

Yes, 25 years of paper shuffling is exactly like doing something that got one a Silver Star.

F X Muldoon on January 14, 2016 at 6:31 AM

The ninth circus is not correct in this. They ignore the intangible, but very real and valuable benefits of displaying one’s ribbons n’ bows. Of course, they probably have no clue what I’m talking about.

Oh, heads up for the trolls, I am not talking about free meals at Applebee’s on Veteran’s day.

dogsoldier on January 14, 2016 at 7:14 AM

Would the courts feel the same way if a layman got hold of a judge’s robe and traipsed around wearing it?

TimBuk3 on January 14, 2016 at 7:58 AM

TimBuk3 on January 14, 2016 at 7:58 AM

They seem ok with racists, socialists and incompetents wearing them. so yeah they are ok with people completely unqualified pretending to be judges. IT HAPPENS EVERY DAY.

And prosecutors, investigators and oh yeah, PRESIDENTS.

dogsoldier on January 14, 2016 at 8:15 AM

Yes, 25 years of paper shuffling is exactly like doing something that got one a Silver Star.

F X Muldoon on January 14, 2016 at 6:31 AM

Well, you’ve obviously never gotten hand sanitizer in a paper cut.

/

CurtZHP on January 14, 2016 at 8:26 AM

Would the courts feel the same way if a layman got hold of a judge’s robe and traipsed around wearing it?

TimBuk3 on January 14, 2016 at 7:58 AM

I thought that’s what the 9th Circus Court was already comprised of.

dirtseller on January 14, 2016 at 8:56 AM

I thought that’s what the 9th Circus Court was already comprised of.

I am not sure superannuated hippies really qualify as laymen.

F X Muldoon on January 14, 2016 at 9:12 AM

You need to stop assuming that your views match the world’s views.

Tlaloc on January 13, 2016 at 7:38 PM

Tlaloc spent an entire evening on variations on this point, and completely glossed over the fact that he added military uniform to his list of non-offenses, even though the stolen valor act affects 704 and not 702 as far as I can tell.

But of course, far be it from him to have an honest discussion about case law when he can instead tear down people whose views don’t match his views “the world’s” views.

The Schaef on January 14, 2016 at 11:24 AM

Folks,

Do not be concerned with the willfully ignorant comments of those who will ALWAYS choose to spit upon honor, and praise depravity.

A Little League coach when I was nine years old said; “The most important ability is availability”. Such profundity is wasted on youngsters, but the truth is there. Having the talent and skill to accomplish something is meaningless if you are not there to do so.

The symbols of service, duty, honor, and valor which mean nothing to the likes of tlaloc, represent the best attributes of those who made themselves available to their nation’s needs, and did so with distinction.

To people (using the term generously) who have no frame of reference for recognizing the value of those attributes, there is no argument which can be made to bring them to such recognition. Likewise, the craven wish to be seen as someone with those attributes, while having done nothing of such value, belongs to a mind unable to ever grasp the crime being committed.

There is no reasonable definition of “speech” which can be twisted to fit the intention of anyone fraudulently wearing the symbols of military service. What opinion, what ideal, what concept is being promoted in so doing? No, the decision of the horribly misguided court has no basis in fact, and is, as always, nothing but a political expedient, calculated to undermine value in this nation.

To the fellow men and women who have donned the uniform, ::salute::

Freelancer on January 14, 2016 at 12:31 PM

Thank you, Freelancer.
Well done.

partsnlabor on January 14, 2016 at 12:39 PM

I wouldn’t put myself in the position to be yelled at by a drill sergeant.

Tlaloc on January 13, 2016 at 7:19 PM

Good call, Yellow Stain. You wouldn’t last a minute in even the tamest military environment. But you keep telling yourself it’s because you’re so much better than the military types that actually do serve their country.

hawkdriver on January 14, 2016 at 1:29 PM

The court, peace be upon it, has spoken, blessed is its word.

claudius on January 14, 2016 at 2:38 PM

We have gone to Hell. Liberalism is eating away at everything this country stands for…. even the honor of the men and women who served and are serving. I loathe liberals and their bedwetting, intolerant, PC existence.

ultracon on January 14, 2016 at 3:59 PM

Great! I’m going out now to buy my black robe and dunce cap so I can masquerade as a judge. Speech, ain’t it grand?

TimeOnTarget on January 14, 2016 at 5:24 PM

Freedom of Speech? No way!

First where Do I come from on this? I was wounded during a mortar attack, minor but it drew blood and hurt like what ever. This should have gotten me a Purple heart. I was the Company Commander. I elected to stay with my unit to insure they were in good defensive positions and our primary mission was accomplished. This should have earned a bronze star. I did get a Cross of Gallantry for the actions but not the lesser US decorations. Why? Some one just did not do the paper work. Do I wear these awards. Absolutely not. I may have earned them but I was not awarded them. On the side to Apache Who Knows, I was about 5 K South of You at the same time.

Now the wearing of decorations. There is a slight difference between officers and enlisted Decorations it is kind of important here. The decorations that you where on your uniform is a complete record of YOUR Military service. It is an official government record of, how long you served, if you were in combat and how long, where you served, how well you did your job, and what schools you went to.

Differences in enlisted and officer. An Enlisted member can be awarded a Good Conduct metal an officer can not. I was an officer with prior enlisted service so as an Officer I could proudly wear my Good Conduct metal. An Enlisted member could immediately look at my decorations and see that I may be an Officer now but I pulled KP and Guard duty just like them.

What dose this all mean? AR (Army Regulation) 600-8-22 and AR 670-1 covers the wearing of the Uniform and decorations. These are Official Government Documents. Since the Uniform and decorations stated the official service record of that individual, in my mind it is simple. IT IS NOT freedom of speech it is falsifying official government documents and there for it is a crime.

Maybe it needs to be put another way so that this Judge can understand it.

According to him I could put on a Judge’s Robe, walk up and down the halls of a court house handing out legal decisions to the press. He thinks this would be OK? Why ? Because It is not a real robe and I am not a real Judge even though I have taken actions to make people believe that I am. How about this. The Judge is about to retire. He hears from a close friend (Hillary Clinton) that I am a great futures investor and can get him a quick 10,000 time return on his investment. He gives me his life savings and retirement fund, I move to Nepal. According to this Judge I committed no crime since I did not say I was a Futures Trader.

This Judge is nuts.

jpcpt03 on January 14, 2016 at 5:30 PM

More like fraud than free speech.

brainpimp on January 15, 2016 at 12:08 PM

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