And in Denver, a federal district court formally charged Strandlof with violating the Stolen Valor Act, citing him for five misdemeanors.

During his first and only tour in Iraq, Briggs heard the news from his father. In the months leading up to his deployment, Duncan had offered Briggs all kinds of advice based on his own experiences there: "Keep your head down," he encouraged. "Give 'em hell."

"Rick Strandlof is a dirtbag. He researched being full of crap," Briggs says today, and the local members of the IVAW didn't appreciate him unloading crap on them. "Each individual was so filled with anger that there was never really any question of talking to him. The only question was whether we would go find him. For a while, I was down."

Rick Strandlof, aka Rick Duncan, was charged with violating the Stolen Valor Act.
Rick Strandlof, aka Rick Duncan, was charged with violating the Stolen Valor Act.
Rick Strandlof joined up with Occupy Denver last fall.
Ambrose Cruz
Rick Strandlof joined up with Occupy Denver last fall.

Others who knew Strandlof as Rick Duncan vacillate between anger and pity...and curiosity about what happened to the money he raised. Some remain firmly convinced that his heart was in the right place, even if his Purple Heart was decidedly not. "The record will show he definitely has a soft spot for veterans, and I dig that," Flaherty says. "When the news broke out, we were all like, 'What a piece of shit,' and dumped on him, but then we realized he did a lot of good things for the community. But you don't have to pretend to be a veteran to have done the good things Rick did."

Flaherty continues: "He is a good person, from what I can tell, and he doesn't have to put on these facades to belong. I think that's his main struggle: He's just never going to feel like he fits in anywhere. You can't start any relationship under false pretenses, because ultimately, you're always going to be caught."

He pauses to consider. "He's like the Mr. Magoo of espionage."

******

Maybe it was done to protect myself from something I was threatened by, that was going to somehow hurt me. Maybe someday this will be revealed to me. Maybe someday it will not.

What would become the Stolen Valor Act began as a college assignment at Colorado State University in Pueblo. At the time, 47-year-old political-science major Pam Sterner was looking for a topic for an essay assigned by her public-policy professor. The assignment — write about a law that isn't working or one you'd like to exist — struck her as wildly open-ended, but she eventually found her subject while listening to a conversation between her husband, Vietnam vet Doug Sterner, and a friend in the FBI.

"Through them, I knew that Title 18 wasn't working," she says, referring to the federal law that she thought could be strengthened with language that later became Stolen Valor. Policymakers had penned those provisions before the dawn of modern technology, when it was easier to falsify a DD214 without being caught by a quick e-search. Still, those who violated it had to be caught wearing the medal they falsely claimed as their own, not just lying about it. "It just seemed unconscionable to me that anyone would be allowed to lie like that," Sterner recalls.

After Sterner finished her 25-page essay, titled "The Stolen Valor Act of 2005," Sterner arranged a meeting with then-representative John Salazar, a veteran who sympathized with her goals; he tasked his staff with drafting a formal bill based on her essay. Two years later, in December 2006, President George W. Bush signed the Stolen Valor Act into law. Its updated provisions made it illegal to fraudulently claim a number of lesser medals, and broadened the requirements for misrepresentation: People could now be charged with violating the act for lying out loud or affixing Purple Heart plates to their Volvos.

But on June 28, 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Stolen Valor Act. The case that prompted that decision involved one Xavier Alvarez. "Lying was his habit," Justice Anthony Kennedy said bluntly in the court's decision. The California man had lied about a spot on the Detroit Red Wings hockey team, and he'd lied about a wedding to a "starlet from Mexico." But when the 25-year veteran of the Marine Corps lied about winning the Medal of Honor, he committed a crime.

At least that's what prosecutors at a U.S. District Court in central California suggested. A conviction for violating the Stolen Valor Act could typically mean up to six months in prison, but lying about the Medal of Honor, the most prestigious military award possible, upped the ante to a potential year behind bars. Attorneys for Alvarez, who was facing two counts, argued that the act itself violated his freedom of speech. After the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals refused to hear their case en banc, the lawyers appealed to the Supreme Court.

 Meanwhile, Strandlof's case was also going through the courts. In federal district court in Denver, Judge Robert Blackburn had ruled that the act infringed upon constitutional freedoms. Appeals judges disagreed, however, and on January 27, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Stolen Valor Act.

Then came the Supreme Court's ruling. "The Nation well knows that one of the costs of the First Amendment is that it protects the speech we detest as well as the speech we embrace," Kennedy wrote. "Though few might find [Alvarez's] statements anything but contemptible, his right to make those statements is protected by the Constitution's guarantee of freedom of speech and expression. The Stolen Valor Act infringes upon speech protected by the First Amendment."

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7 comments
PalmalaHanderson
PalmalaHanderson

Having 3 sons;

1- sociopathic narcissistic sex offender felon

2- bi-polar passive-agressive never employed slacker

3- honor roll athlete of high morals

 

Is it nature or nurture?

 

Is it us (parents, still married)?

 

How come the kid we gave the least parenting to (the first two pretty much burnt us out) turned out so good?

 

Reading this story makes me realise that is a question for the ages that I will take to my grave.

 

 

Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

So THIS, is what Joe Murphy does w/ his spare time....???

heckle3030
heckle3030

"He's like the Mr. Magoo of espionage."

 

I damn near broke a rib laughing. Good call, Hank!

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

So when this guy finally pops a gasket, will there be copious handwringing about the ignored -- yet obvious -- signs of mental illness?

 

 

Elwood
Elwood

Very good read.  For the sake of clarity/accuracy, Iliff is not part of DU. 

klansman
klansman

Wow - i had no clue this guy was a homo.  That sure changes my impression of him now.

 
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