Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Criminal Blogging

A decision today from the New York Court of Appeals

University of Chicago Professor Norman Golb is a scholar of the Dead Sea Scrolls. This [criminal] case involves an internet campaign by Golb's son, Raphael Golb, to attack the integrity and harm the reputation of other Dead Sea Scrolls academics and scholars, while promoting the views of his father.

To accomplish his goal of discrediting and harming these individuals, defendant, using pseudonyms and impersonating real academics and scholars, sent emails to museum administrators, academics and reporters. He published anonymous blogs. He concocted an elaborate scheme in which he used a pseudonym to engage one professor in an email exchange, and then impersonated a different scholar to criticize that professor's emails. Defendant impersonated a New York University (NYU) professor and sent emails to NYU students and NYU deans indicating that the professor had plagiarized the work of Professor Golb.

The court's disposition of the criminal charges

...we affirm the convictions for nine counts of criminal impersonation in the second degree and all of the convictions for forgery. We vacate the conviction for identity theft in the second degree; five of the convictions for criminal impersonation in the second degree; all of the convictions for aggravated harassment in the second degree, and the conviction for unauthorized use of a computer.

Justice Lippman would dismiss the charges in their entirety.

It would be difficult to find the conduct by defendant detailed in the majority opinion admirable. But our very different task is to decide whether that conduct was properly treated as criminal. While I see no constitutional impediment to prosecuting conduct similar to defendant's targeting Professor Schiffman as second degree identity theft -- which requires for its proof evidence of intent to cause highly specific injury of a non-reputational sort -- the particular counts of identity theft with which defendant was charged in the indictment's top two counts were not sufficiently proved...

The use of the criminal impersonation and forgery statutes now approved amounts to an atavism at odds with the First Amendment and the free and uninhibited exchange of ideas it is meant to foster.

Extensive information concerning the case can be found at The Raphael Golb Trial web page. (Mike Frisch)


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It would perhaps be useful to mention that the court also vacated numerous convictions with which the defendant had also been saddled, including the two felonies and the "aggravated harassment" charges -- holding in this regard that New York's aggravated harassment statute is unconstitutional.

Posted by: Quixote | May 13, 2014 5:19:07 PM

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