Aaron Lawless and stolen valor

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Aaron Lawless and stolen valor

The newspaper report of course just glances the surface:

A judge in Maryland has dismissed the federal charge against a Nebraska man, finding the Stolen Valor Act he was accused of violating is unconstitutional.

Aaron Lawless, an Iraq War veteran from Gothenburg, had faced as much as a year in federal prison if he was convicted of lying about military awards he never earned.

But in the end, it was the Stolen Valor Act itself that ended up being on trial -- and Lawless won.

The article lays out the background of Mr Lawless, or sort of….

 Lawless enlisted in the Army in March 2005 and was sent to Iraq as an infantryman and awarded an Infantry Badge and the Iraqi Freedom Campaign Ribbon. In July 2006, he returned to the United States to be treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center for a pre-existing brain lesion.

He now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and has other mental health defects, his attorneys say.

Of course, this is what he was claiming earlier:

 Aaron Lawless joined the military the day after his 17th birthday. April 17th 2002. Ever since then he has been in the military.

He is currently stationed at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington D.C.. There he is recovering from wounds received on July 12 2006. During his time in the military he has received four purple hearts, Two Bronze Stars with V-devices, and one Silver Star. He has served in both the United States Marine Corps and the United States Army.

It was all crap.  Anyway, the guy used his phony stories to get Glock to give him an award (seen above with the Glock CEO and R. Lee Ermey).  A little digging though found out that this wasn’t Mr. Lawless’ first brush with the law….

A former Kearney was sentenced to federal prison for 8½ months for possessing a homemade machine gun.

Aaron Lawless, 24, of Gothenburg, formerly of Kearney, was sentenced Friday in U.S. District Court with the weapons violation by Judge Richard Kopf.

According to U.S. Attorney Alan Everett, Lawless served his prison time and now is serving three years of supervised release.

Nice guy.  This is what the court actually said:

 The receipt of military honors and medals involves the recognition by Congress and the military of extraordinary public service on behalf of servicemen and women. It is, therefore, a matter of public concern under First Amendment analysis. The Act, however, does not require that the speaker act with malice or even with reckless disregard for the truth. In its present form, the Act punishes all false statements about the receipt of military honors, including the malicious, the reckless, the mistaken or the innocent.  Since the Act does not include an element of malice, the speech targeted by the Act may not be punished.


Of course, the court could always impute a requirement for malice, something it has done in other places, but here it does not.  Bear in mind that not one person has ever been prosecuted for a mistaken or innocent uttering of an “untruth” about military awards.  For the most part it couldn’t happen, I mean, who doesn’t know whether they are entitled to a Medal of Honor?


There is a legislative fix in the works.  HR 1775, currently in the House of Representatives would change it to read:


 Sec. 1041. Certain misrepresentations about military service.

`(a) Offense- Whoever, with intent to obtain anything of value, knowingly makes a misrepresentation regarding his or her military service, shall--

`(1) if the misrepresentation is that such individual served in a combat zone, served in a special operations force, or was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 1 year, or both; and

`(2) in any other case, be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 6 months, or both.


Unfortunately, it will be too late a change to affect guys like Lawless, Rick Duncan/Strandlof, Xavier Alvarez and the hundreds of other guys that have been doing this all along, but at least if it passes we can start punishing these clowns.


Posted in the burner | 3 comments
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The Supreme Court is now hearing feuds in the lawsuit of United States v. Alvarez. This Act makes it a criminal offense to lie about receiving military awards or about military service; a regulation that could violate First Amendment free speech rights.
Resource for this article: Supreme Court agrees to hear arguments about Stolen Valor Act
Well, see how will the Supreme Court tackles this issue and handle debates from both parties.

On Monday, the Supreme Court declared that it would hear the case of U.S. v. Alvarez. The lawsuit is a challenge of Free Speech v military awards. The Stolen Valor Act at issue in the lawsuit is intended to shield military awards, but could violate First Amendment protections. Resource for this article: Supreme Court agrees to hear arguments about Stolen Valor Act .

Now, if prosecution of "Valor Thieves" were based on the attainment, or attempted attainment of "something of value (other than a higher opinion of one's self, by others)", I agree...just as any case of fraud. If mere lies about one's heroic feats and military experience were indeed felonious, about 50% of the idiots with whom I currently serve would, or should, be prison bound.
As despicable an act as these are, telling fibs, no matter how extravagant, if only for the sake of impressing people, should not be a crime....unless, again, there are tangable gains, as a result.
My two cents.

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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.