Charge dismissed in fake hero's case, Valor Act ruled unconstitutional
A federal judge in Denver has ruled the Stolen Valor Act is "facially unconstitutional" because it violates free speech and dismissed the criminal case against Rick Strandlof, a man who lied about being an Iraq war veteran.
U.S. District Judge Robert Blackburn issued his decision this morning.
"The Stolen Valor Act is declared to be facially unconstitutional as a content-based restriction on speech that does not serve a compelling government interest, and consequently that the Act is invalid as violative of the First Amendment," Blackburn wrote in his opinion.
Strandlof, 32, was charged with five misdemeanors related to violating the Stolen Valor Act - specifically, making false claims about receiving military decorations.
He posed as "Rick Duncan," a wounded Marine captain who received a Purple Heart and a Silver Star. Strandlof used that persona to found the Colorado Veterans Alliance and solicit funds for the organization.
Actual veterans who served on the board were suspicious of his claims and the FBI began investigating.
Robert Pepin, Strandlof's attorney, the ACLU of Colorado and the Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit civil liberties group, all filed briefs with Blackburn contesting the Stolen Valor Act.
They argued that simply lying is not illegal.
The Stolen Valor Act prohibits people from falsely claiming they have been awarded military decorations and medals.
The act, signed into law in 2006, carries a punishment ranging from fines to six months in prison.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeremy Sibert had argued false statements made by Strandlof are not protected speech because they damaged the reputation and meaning of military decorations and medals.