While Bearing Arms is a Second Amendment-focused website, we do occasionally stray from that in a few occasions. Crime, for example, is a routine side-trip for us, which makes sense. If there were no criminals, there would be no need for self-defense against human predators. We also tend to stand with the military and veterans for what should be pretty obvious reasons.
So when I saw this story, I couldn’t help but snicker.
It seems a federal judge didn’t like it when a couple of crooks claimed to be veterans to get their cases sent to a special court for reduced sentences despite having never served. He disliked it so much that their punishment more than fits the crime.
Ryan Morris, 28, and Troy Nelson, 33, both claimed they were veterans as part of an effort to get their cases moved to a Veterans Court to receive lesser sentences.
The two were sentenced Friday in Cascade County Court. Morris got 10 years in prison for violating the terms of his probation for felony burglary, while Nelson got five years on a drug possession conviction. Judge Greg Pinski suspended three years of each defendant’s sentence.
Not so bad, right? In fact, by suspending three years of each sentence, it could be argued that the judge was being soft on the two men.
The thing is, there’s more to the sentence.
Before either can be eligible for parole, however, Pinski ordered them both to handwrite the names of the 6,756 Americans killed in Iraq and Afghanistan; to write out the obituaries of the 40 Montanans killed in Iraq and Afghanistan; and send hand-written letters of apology to several veterans groups, making sure to identify themselves as having lied about military service to receive help and possibly a lesser sentence through a Veterans Court.
Morris and Nelson were also each ordered to perform 441 hours of community service — one hour for each Montanan killed in combat since the Korean War — with a veteran’s organization.
The judge also ordered that, during the suspended portions of their sentences, Morris and Nelson must stand at the Montana Veterans Memorial in Great Falls for eight hours on each Memorial Day and Veterans Day wearing a placard that says: “I am a liar. I am not a veteran. I stole valor. I have dishonored all veterans.”
Judge Pinski also required the two to watch a video of a Stolen Valor wannabe being confronted by actual veterans.
Now, it should be noted that neither of these two was being prosecuted for Stolen Valor. So why were they being punished for it? Well, the problem was that they tried to use the veteran status neither of them had to get their cased kicked to an easier court.
Further, the judge argues there’s precedent for taking such things into account.
Attorneys for both men objected to the placard condition.
Attorney Mark Frisbie said his client has not been charged with stolen valor, which is a federal crime, but was being punished for it.
Pinski said he was punishing the men for lying to the court. He also cited Montana Supreme Court rulings that give him discretion to take the stolen valor into account and others that upheld the placard requirements.
I’m skeptical that such a sentence will hold up to appeal, unfortunately. That’s not a legal opinion rendered from years of training or anything, just my own cynicism at work.
Still, my hope is that this serves as a reminder that Stolen Valor isn’t a good idea. While the law says you can lie so long as you don’t try to profit from it, let’s remember that lies are still lies and they can come back to bite you in the butt. For example, Morris here even had the cajones to apply for VA treatment despite having never served.
Now, he’s been instructed on the error of his ways. The question is, did either of these guys actually learn it?
Hat tip: RedState