Lying about being a war hero is protected speech. Wearing a Purple Heart is not. That is what the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled on Tuesday, The Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog reported.
The decision follows a Supreme Court ruling in U.S. v. Alvarez in June that the First Amendment protects your right to lie about being a war hero. As a result, part of the Stolen Valor Act was struck down.
David M. Perelman, a Vietnam War veteran, inadvertently shot himself in the thigh — 20 years after his three-month-long deployment in 1971, according to court documents cited by the Law Blog.
He then claimed to the Veterans Association that the wound was a result of shrapnel that struck him in Vietnam. The U.S. Air Force gave Perelman a Purple Heart in 1994, entitling him to roughly $180,000 in disability benefits.
Perelman pleaded guilty but reserved the right to appeal a lower court’s rejection of his First Amendment challenges of the constitutionality of the Stolen Valor Act.
In the appeal, the Ninth Circuit agreed that Perelman had a right to lie about being a war hero and that the part of the Stolen Valor Act forbidding his doing so violated the First Amendment, Law Blog reported.
But “the use of a physical object goes beyond mere speech and suggests that the wearer has proof of the lie, or government endorsement of it,” the appeals court decided.
Perelman, who ultimately got 10 months in prison, argued that the law could make criminals of actors who wear military medals on stage or grieving spouses who wear their lost ones’ medals.
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