Yesterday, the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a 2-1 opinion involving the Stolen Valor Act. That law made it a federal crime to represent that you had received a medal while serving in the military when you hadn’t.
Xavier Alvarez, for reasons known only to him, claimed that he was a retired Marine and that he had received the Congressional Medal of Honor. That was a lie, and he was indicted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles for violating the law. Mr. Alvarez claimed the law violated his First Amendment right to freedom of speech.
A panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with him in a 2-1 decision Tuesday, agreeing that the law was a violation of his free-speech rights. The majority said there’s no evidence that such lies harm anybody, and there’s no compelling reason for the government to ban such lies. [emphasis supplied]
Remember when Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal claimed he had served in Viet Nam when he hadn’t?
Of course, he didn’t claim to have received a medal, and thus did not violate the Stolen Valor Act, but he certainly deceived his constituents. However, were Connecticut in the Ninth Circuit, instead of claiming a “few misplaced words”, Mr. Blumenthal could simply have pointed to the First Amendment in his defense.
And then, there is former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich who was convicted yesterday of lying to the FBI when he told them that he didn’t want to know who contributed to his campaign, and that there was a “firewall” between his campaign operations and his administration. The jury found those statements to be false, and thus a violation of federal law.
Too bad Chicago is not in the Ninth Circuit. Were it, Blagojevich would be able to raise this newly created “no harm, no foul” defense as a reason to overturn his conviction.
Why do public officials (Mr. Alvarez is a member of a water district board in California) believe it acceptable behavior to mislead those for whom they “serve”?
I learned last evening that Mr. Alvarez not only never received the Congressional Medal of Honor, but, he never served in the Marines either. And, he is no longer a member of the water district board…he is accused of embezzling funds from it.