DENVER, Jan. 20 (UPI) -- A Colorado man being prosecuted for lying about being a decorated Iraq war veteran is protected by the First Amendment, civil libertarians says.
Federal prosecutors in Denver say Rick Strandlof, 32, violated the Stolen Valor Act by making false claims about receiving military decorations while posing as "Rick Duncan," a wounded Marine captain who received a Purple Heart and a Silver Star, The Denver Post reported.
But the Rutherford Institute, a non-profit Virginia civil liberties group, has filed a friend-of-the-court brief in Strandlof's case denouncing the Stolen Valor Act's constitutionality.
"You have to redraft the law to prove a particularized damage," Rutherford Institute President John Whitehead told the Post. "If you run around Denver and yell out, 'I got the Medal of Honor,' you are guilty of the statute the way it is written."
Strandlof's attorney, Robert Pepin, is seeking to have the charges dismissed. The newspaper said he wrote that "protecting the reputation of military decorations is insufficient to survive this exacting scrutiny."
But Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeremy Sibert countered in filings that Strandlof's false statements are not protected speech.
"Since the act's prohibition is narrowly tailored, its criminal penalty does not violate the First Amendment," Sibert said.