A stolen valor punishment that probably fits the crime

Here’s a little something from the Daily Caller to lift your spirits on Humpday. Two men in Montana (in separate instances) both falsely claimed combat veteran status and were later convicted of a variety of crimes. Ryan Patrick Morris claimed to have served seven combat tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan, while Troy Allan Nelson enrolled himself in Veterans Treatment Court. Neither had served.

The judge in their cases was sentencing them to prison on a variety of crimes, but learning of the incidents of stolen valor, he spiced up the punishment with some prerequisites the two would have to meet before they could be considered eligible for parole. It came in the form of a writing assignment.

A Montana judge sentenced two men to prison on Aug. 23 for separate crimes and ruled they have to complete a writing assignment for lying about military service before becoming eligible for parole.

Cascade County District Judge Greg Pinski also said Ryan Patrick Morris, 28, and Troy Allan Nelson, 33, must wear signs at the Montana Veterans Memorial for eight hours on both Memorial and Veterans Day during suspended portions of their sentences, The Associated Press reported Sunday.

“I am a liar. I am not a veteran,” the signs would read. “I stole valor. I have dishonored all veterans.”

The judge ordered Morris and Nelson to hand write 6,756 names of U.S. veterans killed in Iraq and Afghanistan and obituaries of 40 Montana veterans killed in those countries, AP reported.

In addition to writing up the signs and wearing them at the Veteran’s Memorial and writing lists of all the names of the fallen in Iraq and Afghanistan, there was more. Each will have to perform 441 hours of community service, one hour for each service member from Montana lost in the wars. They will also have to write letters of apology to various veterans organizations.

The one catch in the story is that neither of the attorneys for the two men has agreed to the requirement to wear the signs, so they’ll probably be challenging that.

The problem is, punishment for these types of activities have been historically difficult to make stick. Keep in mind that the Stolen Valor Act of 2005 was challenged by a couple of cretins after George W. Bush signed it into law and it was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2012.

The subsequent Stolen Valor Act of 2013 has stood up thus far, but it’s quite limited by comparison. It only applies to people who fraudulently wear or claim to have earned any of a specific list of medals. And even if they do, you have to be able to prove that they did so “with the intention of obtaining money, property, or other tangible benefit.” That makes it much tougher to get a conviction and probably wouldn’t apply to the two liars in this story.

Montana does have a history of taking such things seriously, though. In May of this year, a jury awarded a Marine $1.7 million from a man accused of fraud and negligent misrepresentation. He had claimed to also have been an active duty Marine. The man had no service record.

We’ll put a pin in this story and circle back later to find out if the two convicts have any luck in getting the stolen valor portions of their sentences kicked. I hope they don’t, but I’m not confident.