Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Manhattan D.A.'s Office Charges Son With Identity Theft, Impersonation, In Attempt To "Influence Debate" on Dead Sea Scrolls

The Chronicle of Higher Education discusses the arrest of Raphael Haim Golb, a New York attorney, on "charges of identity theft, criminal impersonation, and aggravated harassment" for allegedly going after those who challenged or in his opinion refused adequately to credit his father's opinions concerning the origins of the Dead Sea Scrolls. His father is scholar Norman Golb, who is on the faculty at the University of Chicago. Says the Chronicle:

The Manhattan district attorney's office alleged in a statement released on Thursday that Raphael Haim Golb, 49, son of Norman Golb, a professor of Jewish history and civilization at the University of Chicago, used dozens of Internet aliases to "influence and affect debate on the Dead Sea Scrolls" and "harass Dead Sea Scrolls scholars who disagree with his viewpoint."

According to the D.A.'s office, among Mr. Golb's targets were Professor Lawrence Shiffman at New York University. The Chronicle also identifies Professor Risa Kohn of San Diego State University as one of Mr. Golb's targets.

According to the D. A. office press release:

The investigation leading to today’s arrest revealed that GOLB engaged in a systematic scheme on the Internet, using dozens of Internet aliases, in order to influence and affect debate on the Dead Sea Scrolls, and in order to harass Dead Sea Scrolls scholars who disagree with his viewpoint. GOLB used computers at New York University (NYU) in an attempt to mask his true identity when conducting this Internet scheme. He gained access to NYU computers by virtue of being a graduate of the university, and having made donations to its library fund.

The investigation, which included a court-authorized search warrant that was executed this morning at GOLB’s apartment, began in response to a complaint by Lawrence Schiffman, Ph.D., that he was impersonated over the Internet. Dr. Schiffman is a NYU professor, chairman of the Hebrew & Judaic Studies Department and a leading scholar in the field of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

In August 2008, Dr. Schiffman became subject to a campaign of impersonation and harassment through the Internet, by an anonymous individual. An investigation by the District Attorney’s Office revealed that this individual was GOLB, the son of Norman Golb, Ph.D., a Dead Sea Scrolls scholar who resides in Chicago. RAPHAEL GOLB used methods which were intended to maintain his anonymity, and opened an email account - larry.schiffman @ - purportedly in Dr. Schiffman’s name and sent 11 emails to multiple NYU recipients, in which he pretended to be Dr. Schiffman, and purported to admit to plagiarism.  Simultaneously, RAPHAEL GOLB, using other Internet aliases, sent emails to NYU personnel and administration accusing Dr. Schiffman of plagiarism, and created Internet blogs accusing Dr. Schiffman of plagiarism.

GOLB also created email accounts in the names of other individuals active in the field of Dead Sea Scrolls scholarship, including Stephen Goranson and Jonathan Seidel.

The Dead Sea Scrolls consist of roughly 900 documents, including texts from the Hebrew Bible, discovered between 1947 and 1956 in 11 caves in and around the ancient ruins of Qumran, on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, in present-day Israel. The texts are of great religious and historical significance, as they include the only known surviving copies of biblical texts made before 100 A.D., and preserve evidence of considerable diversity of belief and practice within late Second Temple period Judaism, the Judaism of the second and first centuries B.C. and the first century A.D. These manuscripts generally date to between 150 B.C. and 50 A.D. Publication of the scrolls is now complete, however it was delayed for many decades.

There is considerable academic scholarship that surrounds the Dead Sea Scrolls, with areas of general consensus, and with areas of debate and differing opinions and theories. Because of the importance of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and because of the delay in publication, the scrolls are also subject to some conspiracy theories.

Many scholars view the scrolls collection as having been assembled by an ancient Jewish sect, which many call the Essenes. Furthermore, many scholars believe that this sect resided in the settlement in Qumran, in close proximity to the caves where the scrolls were found.

The defendant’s father, Dr. Norman Golb, is a professor at the University of Chicago. He has been a proponent of the viewpoint that the Dead Sea Scrolls found in the caves of Qumran had nothing to do with the buildings and settlement at the Qumran site. He believes that they were not the product of the Essenes, but of many different Jewish sects and communities of ancient Israel, who hid the scrolls in the caves at Qumran while fleeing from Jerusalem.

RAPHAEL GOLB, through his Internet aliases, promoted the theories of his father and criticized the theories of others. Frequently, he criticized the manner in which the Dead Sea Scrolls have been exhibited, for not giving sufficient attention to the theories of his father.

GOLB is charged with Identity Theft in the Second Degree, a class E felony, which is punishable by up to 1⅓ to 4 years in prison; Identity Theft in the Third Degree, Criminal Impersonation in the Second Degree, Forgery in the Third Degree and Aggravated Harassment in the Second Degree, all class A misdemeanors, which are each punishable by up to 1 year in prison. He is scheduled to be arraigned today in Manhattan Criminal Court.

The investigation is continuing.

Here's more from Reuters and from the New York Times.

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