Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Federal judge rules Stolen Valor Act unconstitutional

A federal judge in Denver ruled Friday the federal Stolen Valor Act is unconstitutional because it violates free speech rights.

U.S. District Judge Robert E. Blackburn dismissed the criminal case against Rick Strandlof, a man who lied about being an Iraq war veteran.

It was not immediately clear Friday what effect, if any, the ruling could have on Stolen Valor cases that have already been prosecuted. Those cases include a Hillsborough County man who last month got three years' probation for violating the act.

In the Colorado case, Blackburn rejected the prosecution's argument that lying about having military medals dilutes their meaning and significance.

"This wholly unsubstantiated assertion is frankly, shocking, and indeed, unintentionally insulting to the profound sacrifices of military personnel the Stolen Valor Act purports to honor," Blackburn wrote. "To suggest that the battlefield heroism of our servicemen and women is motivated in any way, let alone in a compelling way, by considerations of whether a medal may be awarded simply defies my comprehension."

The Stolen Valor Act prohibits people from falsely claiming they have been awarded military decorations and medals. Signed into law in 2006, the act carries a punishment ranging from fines to six months in prison.

In Tampa, Angel Manuel Ocasio-Reyes pleaded guilty to violating the Act. Ocasio-Reyes, 48, of Lutz, was charged with wearing military medals and decorations he did not receive. Prosecutors said he wore a sergeant major's uniform bedecked with the Navy Cross, Purple Heart, Bronze Star, and other medals.

Blackburn's decision only set precedent in the District of Colorado and further prosecution under the law isn't likely to happen in Colorado unless a higher court strikes down his ruling.

Strandlof, 32, was charged with five misdemeanors related to violating the law, specifically, making false claims about receiving military decorations.

He posed as "Rick Duncan," a wounded Marine captain who received a Purple Heart and a Silver Star. Strandlof used that persona to found the Colorado Veterans Alliance and solicit funds for the organization.

Federal judge rules Stolen Valor Act unconstitutional 07/16/10 [Last modified: Friday, July 16, 2010 10:58pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Review: Arcade Fire open hearts, play with passion at the USF Sun Dome in Tampa

    Blogs

    Gloves off, hearts open and disco balls glittering, Arcade Fire scaled the stage for the first time ever in Tampa, pouncing and flailing and performing with all the passion that’s made them one of the world’s most celebrated rock bands this century.

    Arcade Fire performed at the USF Sun Dome in Tampa on Sept. 22, 2017.
  2. Lightning's Steven Stamkos looks close to top form in first game since November

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — The wait felt like forever for Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, having gone 10 months without playing in a game.

    A scramble in front of the Lightning goal has Matthew Peca, far left, and Erik Cernak, middle, helping out goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy during the third period of a 3-1 win against the Predators. Vasilevskiy, who made 29 saves, was “exceptional,” coach Jon Cooper says.
  3. Rays journal: Alex Cobb may have pitched last game in Rays uniform (w/video)

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — RHP Alex Cobb pitched well enough to lead the Rays to an 8-3 win over the Orioles on Friday.

    Wilson Ramos gives thanks after hitting a grand slam during the second inning, putting the Rays up 4-0.
  4. Steven Souza Jr. vindicating big trade for Rays

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — There was a time when the three-team, 11-player transaction the Rays orchestrated to get Steven Souza Jr. from the Nationals looked liked a bad deal.

    The Rays’ Steven Souza Jr. has 30 home runs this season while improving his defense and baserunning but wants to improve on his .236 batting average.
  5. Fennelly: Lightning's Manon Rheaume made history 25 years ago Saturday

    Lightning Strikes

    The name is part of Lightning history, hockey history, sports history.

    Lightning goalie Manon Rheaume became the first woman to play in an NHL game 25 years ago today.