Court to Decide Military Medal Fraud Case

FEB. 26, 2012

By CHRISS STREET

Xavier Alvarez, after being elected in 2007 to the Three Valleys Municipal Water District in Pomona, California introduced himself at his first Board meeting as a wounded war veteran who had received the Congressional Medal of Honor, our nation’s highest honor.  But when it was discovered that Alvarez was never wounded in action, never awarded the Medal of Honor and actually never served in the military, under the Stolen Valor Act of 2005 he was prosecuted and convicted a federal misdemeanor for falsely claiming to have received a U.S. military medal.

Alvarez was sentenced to a $10,000 fine and a prison term for up to one year.  But thanks to the Ninth Circuit Court in Northern California, the most liberal in the country, he was freed to lie again when the court ruled the Stolen Valor Act infringed on Alvarez’s First Amendment freedom of speech.  This week the Supreme Court of the United States agreed to the prosecution’s appeal to take up the constitutionality of the Stolen Valor Act.

Lying about being a war hero is not a new concept.  George Santayana quipped,; “History is a pack of lies about events that never happened told by people who weren’t there.”  But Alvarez is the devil’s poster child for telling whoppers about gallantry.  He brazenly admits that at various times he lied about playing hockey for the Detroit Red Wings, marrying a beautiful Mexican starlet and having an engineering degree.  He got in trouble with the law for claiming he was in the American embassy in Tehran during the Iranian hostage crisis of the late 1970s and early 1980s.  His fantasy exploits included being the hero who rescued the U.S. Ambassador during that crisis and being shot when going back to retrieve the embassy’s American flag.

Military Award Database

Unfortunately for Mr. Alvarez, thanks to the efforts of a real veteran named Doug Sterner and his wife, Pam, there is now a database of the nearly 100,000 military awards presented since the Civil War, including all 3,475 Medal of Honor recipients.  After the publishing of one of Pam’s college term papers expressing her husband’s frustrations over those who falsely claimed to be medal recipients was published, there was so much turmoil that Congress saw fit to make lying about valor a crime.

It became illegal not only to wear but also to buy, sell, barter, trade or manufacture “any decoration or medal authorized by Congress for the armed forces of the United States, or any of the service medals or badges awarded to the members of such forces.”  The law imposes up to six months in prison for lying about any military medal, but allows a maximum penalty of $10,000 and one year in prison for offenses involving the Medal of Honor or one of the military’s three other top decorations: the Army’s Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross or the Air Force Cross.

False Statements

In a prior 2010 appeal of a violation of the Stolen Valor Act by Colorado resident Rick Glen Strandlof, who falsely claimed he was an Annapolis graduate, Marine captain, survivor of the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the Pentagon, winner of a Purple Heart and the Silver Star during his three-tours of duty in the Iraq War, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver refused to overturn Strandlof’s conviction by stating that “false statements of fact do not enjoy constitutional protection” unless to protect more valuable speech.  The case was considered especially egregious, because Strandlof had used his false military heroism in 2008 in support of election efforts by a series of liberal candidates sympathetic to his anti-war views.

Many U.S. Supreme Court watchers questioned the timing of the Ninth Circuit accepting the prosection’s  appeal of the Stolen Valor Act on Feb. 22. That was the 280th anniversary of George Washington’s birth.  When Washington first established American military decorations in 1782, he also laid down strict punishment for any soldiers who claimed to be medal recipients, but were not.

The Ninth Circuit based its ruling that freed Alvarez on the controversial Supreme Court ruling in Texas vs. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397 (1989), which invalidated 48 state prohibitions against desecrating the American flag. Justice William Brennan wrote for a five-to-four justice majority that held defendant Gregory Lee Johnson‘s act of flag burning was protected speech under the First Amendment to the Constitution.  Most Supreme Court scholars believe the liberal ideological majority of the Supreme Court has been reversed since the 1980s.  It will be interesting to see if that change includes respect for honesty and integrity.

The Supreme Court’s acceptance of the appeal can be found at United States v. Xavier Alvarez, 11-210.

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5 comments

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  1. Beelzebub
    Beelzebub 26 February, 2012, 09:04

    If some knucklehead just lied to friends, neighbors or acquaintances in a non-professional capacity about bogus military service or awards that resulted in no monetary gain or influence for professional advancement I don’t think it should be a crime.

    But in Alvarez case – where he falsely claimed to be a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor at a water district board meeting in a professional capacity – absolutely he should be charged. I think anyone who applies for a job and falsely claims to be a vet or military award recipient on a resume should be charged as well. If Alvarez lied to get elected to office the election should be overturned and IMO that should be a felony.

    I have said this for the longest time. If a politician knowingly lies about ANYTHING during a political campaign to gain votes or political contributions in an election – that should be prosecuted the same as felony perjury or felony fraud.

    If politicians are allowed to knowingly lie during political campaigns and get away with it the toll on our electoral process and so-called democratic republic is enormous. If the best liar wins you might as well use the US Constitution as butt wipe.

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  2. Rex The Wonder Dog!
    Rex The Wonder Dog! 26 February, 2012, 11:13

    Alvarez lied about so many things it ain’t funny-NUMEROUS FALSEHOODS. Of course this one of the most egregious. I feel his lie is worthy of a felony conviction and jail time.

    Reply this comment
  3. Rex The Wonder Dog!
    Rex The Wonder Dog! 26 February, 2012, 11:16

    Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver refused to overturn Strandlof conviction by stating that “false statements of fact do not enjoy constitutional protection” unless to protect more valuable speech. The case was considered especially egregious, because Strandlof had used his false military heroism in 2008 in support of election efforts by a series of liberal candidates sympathetic to his anti-war views.

    IMO the SCOTUS will overturn the 9th Circuit-an awful court-and side with the 10th Circuit.

    Reply this comment
  4. Ken Delfino
    Ken Delfino 27 February, 2012, 18:14

    First off, thank you Doug and Pam Sterner for the work you have done in exposing these pathetic excuses of human beings. There has been a lot of battlefield heroism performed during the wars we have fought and the men who participated in such heroism have never brought attention to themselves. They readily deny being heroes, but decry the fact that their buddies were not given more credit than they were given for acts that Mr. Alvarez could only DREAM of doing.
    If the courts continue to refuse to serve justice, then the public in general and veterans in particular, can do so by reminding the populace of the lies and deception put put forth by these impersonators. No need to exagerrate anything…reminding the populace of the FACTS is good enough to embarass these losers. It worked for us in our small town when a town planner who claimed to have been a former Green Beret who was captured in Laos….in fact, WASN’T!
    In closing, the founder of the POW Network, died of a heart attack last week. Chuck Schantag and his wife, Mary created http://www.pownetwork.org after hearing of all the ‘heroic claims’ of liars like Alvarez.
    Ken Delfino
    United States Navy (Ret)
    RivDiv 533, TF-116, RVN
    10/66-7/68

    Reply this comment

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