Rick Duncan claimed to be a Marine who was wounded in Iraq. He told people he'd received a Purple Heart and a Silver Star. He even founded a veterans group in Colorado Springs and shared his story at fundraisers and political events. But in 2009, the military outmaneuvered Duncan, exposing him as a fake; as a result, Duncan — whose real name is Rick Strandlof — was charged with violating the federal Stolen Valor Act, which makes it illegal to pose as a war hero.
Whether that law is constitutional or violates the First Amendment has been discussed numerous times in court. In fact, a Denver district judge dismissed the case against Strandlof, saying that he was exercising his rights to free speech — but last Friday, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that ruling. Because of cases similar to this one around the country — in California, Georgia and Missouri — the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to take up the matter of whether the Stolen Valor Act is constitutional.
There is no law (at least not yet) against pretending to be a Jewish oil-and-gas attorney with a penchant for flash mobs, however, which is something else that Strandlof has been accused of doing. Last year, Strandlof was claiming to be Rick Gold, an attorney with the firm of Patton Boggs, when he got involved with a new social circle. He quickly worked his way into this group of young Jewish professionals, and even partnered with friend Eric Rosenberg to create Denver Flash Mob, an outfit that planned about a dozen wacky flash mobs around town over eight months. But when Rosenberg found out that Gold was a fraud, mob mentality took over, and Strandlof was booted from the group. (You can read about that here: "The Denver Flash Mob goes on, minus one con artist.")
More recently, Strandlof has been hanging out at Occupy Denver — where he's been using his real name. He frequently refers to his life before now as a grab-bag of drugs, alcohol and lies, and keeps a blog at http://rickstrandlof.blogspot.com, in which he refers, vaguely, to the recent U.S. Circuit Court decision: "This is a single court ruling in one of many misdemeanor cases in the unfortunate history of a single human, one of billions that currently suck oxygen on a tiny blue planet orbiting a small yellow star in the backwaters of a typical galaxy in the expanse of one of an infinite number of realities that exist in the mind of G-d," he writes.
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"I am nothing special. There will be those who claim that I am a terrible human being and should have all manner of terrible thing done to me as a result. They are probably correct. Or not."