Posted: Jul 16, 2010 5:42 PM by Nicole Vandeputte
Updated: Jul 16, 2010 7:40 PM
A phony marine won the right to claim he's a war hero, even though he's not. It's the case of Rick Strandlof, a man who fooled so many people including politicians and veterans.
He was charged under the Stolen Valor Act, a federal law, that a Denver judge ruled unconstitutional saying it violates free speech. Despite the ruling, this case is probably not over. Strandlof's lies angered a lot of veterans. One veteran says having the case dismissed now is a slap in the face.
Rick Strandlof caused an uproar with his lies. He formed the Colorado Veterans Alliance on bogus claims that he was an Iraq war vet, and 9/11 survivor.
David Marrera is the Commander of American Legion Post 203 in Pueblo. He's also very active in veteran organizations in the community, including American Legion Riders and the Pueblo Veterans Council. He says Strandlof's lies hurt a lot of organizations that help veterans. He was disappointed by the judge's ruling. "I really feel that it is a slap in the face to all veterans. It pretty much says anyone can claim to be a veteran."
So he, like many veterans, applauded the Stolen Valor Act. That's the law Strandlof was accused of violating. It punishes people who lie about military honors.
The question now, is a "lie" is really breaking the law. The judge said no, but Marrera disagrees. He says, "To me, it's fraud. It's stolen valor. It is something that needs to be protected."
Marrera's ready to fight back. He's contacting local veteran's organizations about this case. He says it will also be addressed at the upcoming meeting of the Pueblo Veterans Council.
The U.S. Attorney's office says any decision on an appeal will come from the Department of Justice in Washington D.C.
Strandlof will be released from a halfway house, but this case may not be over. His attorney says he understands people will be angry, but believes free speech should be protected.
The ACLU and Rutherford Institute came out in defense of Strandlof in this case.