National Roundup


High court torn over law banning lie about medals

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court appeared sharply divided Wednesday over a law that makes it a crime to lie about having been awarded top military honors.

The justices engaged in spirited debate over the constitutionality of a 2006 law aimed at curbing false claims about military exploits.

Some justices said they worried that upholding the Stolen Valor Act could lead to other limits on speech, including laws that might make it illegal to lie about an extramarital affair or a college degree, or to impress a date.

"Where do you stop?" Chief Justice John Roberts asked at one point.

But Roberts later joined other justices in indicating that the court could make clear that, if it upheld the law, it would only be endorsing an effort to prevent people from demeaning the system of military honors that was established by Gen. George Washington in 1782.

The Obama administration's top Supreme Court lawyer, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr., defended the law as targeted to "protect the integrity of the honors system."

Justice Sonia Sotomayor seemed the least willing member of the court to accept the administration's argument. She disputed that the value of the highest award, the Medal of Honor, or any others has been diminished because some people lie about having received them.

Sotomayor said the issue provokes a justifiable emotional reaction, but said previous Supreme Court cases make clear that taking offense by itself is not enough to justify limiting speech.

"So outside of the emotional reaction, where's the harm? And I'm not minimizing it. I, too, take offense when people make these kinds of claims, but I take offense when someone I'm dating makes a claim that's not true," said Sotomayor, who is divorced.

On the other side was Justice Antonin Scalia. "When Congress passed this legislation, I assume it did so because it thought that the value of the awards that these courageous members of the armed forces were receiving was being demeaned and diminished by charlatans. That's what Congress thought," Scalia said.

Jonathan Libby, the federal public defender arguing against the law, said Congress' intent is hard to discern because it passed the legislation without any hearings.

Libby's client, Xavier Alvarez, was one of the first people prosecuted for violating the Stolen Valor Act. Alvarez told a meeting of the Three Valleys Municipal Water District in Pomona, Calif., to which he had been elected, that he was a wounded war veteran who has received the Medal of Honor.

He never served in the armed forces.

Libby said public exposure of lies about military medals is preferable to prosecution. Alvarez "still was exposed for who he was, which was a liar," Libby said.

The two federal appeals courts that have considered the issue have come to different conclusions. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco struck down the law in Alvarez's case. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver upheld the law in the case of another false claim of military valor.

Civil liberties groups, writers, publishers and news media outlets, including The Associated Press, have told the justices they worry the law, and especially the administration's defense of it, could lead to more attempts by government to regulate speech.

Veterans groups are backing the administration.

A decision is expected by late June.

The case is U.S. v. Alvarez, 11-210.

New York

Feds: Leader of NY-based Folk Na tion gang arrested

NEW YORK (AP) -- Federal authorities say they've arrested a fugitive leader of a violent New York City gang linked to a series of armed robberies and shootings.

The U.S. attorney's office in Brooklyn said Wednesday that Devon (DEE'-vahn) Rodney is in custody. His attorney's name wasn't immediately available.

Prosecutors have said that the Folk Nation gang is responsible for at least four homicides, three attempted homicides and six robberies. The victims included a 10-year-old who was shot and injured during a turf war.

Authorities say they also robbed people after using Internet ads to lure them to secluded spots. They say its members have clashed with New York City's versions of the Crips and Bloods street gangs.

In New Jersey, the men are accused in the armed heist of a Hackensack jewelry shop.


State justices qu iet critic of exce ssive noise law

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Ohio's high court says people of "ordinary intelligence" should know loud when they hear loud.

That was the essence of a unanimous Ohio Supreme Court ruling Wednesday. It upheld the constitutionality of Ohio's disorderly conduct law against excessive noise.

Jason Carrick of Wayne County challenged the statute as unconstitutionally vague after being arrested for disorderly conduct during a Halloween party. He failed three times to turn down loud music reported by his neighbors.

The law forbids "recklessly causing inconvenience, annoyance or alarm to another by ... making excessive noise." Carrick's attorneys cited a 1985 appeals court ruling in which the law was voided for not being specific enough.

Justices resolved the legal conflict in their ruling, saying the law provides sufficient notice to a person of ordinary intelligence as to what's required.


Appeals court ru les federal in ma te photos private

DENVER (AP) -- A federal appeals court has ruled that mug shots of federal prisoners are private, rejecting an appeal from an Oklahoma newspaper that argued people have a right to know how inmates are being treated.

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver ruled Tuesday that the Tulsa World is not entitled to booking photos because inmates have a right to privacy and releasing the photos would serve no public purpose.

The newspaper had requested photos of all illegal immigrants and others held on complaints ranging from stolen property and first-offense drug arrests to murders and child sex crimes.

Published: Thu, Feb 23, 2012


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