Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Vet-poser has First Amendment defense

Posted By on Wed, Jan 20, 2010 at 12:58 PM

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Rick Strandlof made a name for himself in Colorado Springs.

That name was Rick Duncan.

"Duncan" was a media favorite. A defender of veteran and homeless rights and the creator of the Colorado Veterans Alliance, "Duncan" said he had won a Purple Heart and a Silver Star, witnessed the Pentagon bombing firsthand, and survived multiple attacks in Iraq.

That was before it was discovered that "Duncan" was actually Strandlof, a mentally-ill man whose record was criminal not military.

Now, Strandlof is being charged with five misdemeanors in U.S. District Court in Denver, all for violating the 2006 law, the Stolen Valor Act, which makes it illegal to falsely claim military decoration.

But the Denver Post reports that Strandlof's lawyer, along with a nonprofit civil liberties group, the Rutherford Institute, claim Strandlof had a First Amendment right to lie. The Stolen Valor Act, they claim, violates the U.S. Constitution.

"You have to redraft the law to prove a particularized damage," John Whitehead, president of Rutherford, said. "If you run around Denver and yell out, 'I got the Medal of Honor,' you are guilty of the statute the way it is written."

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