Dead Sea Scrolls Cyber-Bully Gets Six Months

From the NY Times:

A disbarred lawyer convicted of impersonating a Dead Sea Scrolls scholar and four other academics online in a campaign to discredit their work is going up the river.

A judge Thursday sentenced Raphael Golb to six months behind bars – for his stealing his victims’ e-mail identities and trashing them.

The background to this story has been widely reported; I noted the conviction here. Golb had conducted a long-term campaign of identity theft and harassment in order to defend the academic theories of his father Norman Golb, using a plethora of fake identities; one of his victims, Robert Cargill, pieced together much of the evidence. Robert has issued a statement on his blog:

I am satisfied with the verdict and the sentence in the case of the People of New York vs. Raphael Golb. The sentence fits the crime. During the trial, Dr. Golb showed no remorse, never apologized for his actions, believed what he did wasn’t wrong, and stated flatly that he’d do it again.

…Scholars must be willing to stand behind any statements they make in their own name or else not make them at all. While anonymity has been used in the past to make unpopular and dissenting speech, and while this right of free speech should be protected under the law, what Dr. Golb did – using anonymity as a weapon to attack good scholars via criminal impersonation, forgery, identity theft, and for aggravated harassment against others – is shameful. It is a violation of the law and dishonors the memories of those who have fought and died for the freedom we call “free speech.”

…He has ultimately tarnished his father’s legacy perhaps beyond repair. And, because evidence from the trial proceedings demonstrated that Dr. Norman Golb not only knew about, but appears to have participated in some of his son’s scorched earth campaign of defamation against other scholars, perhaps this disgraced legacy is not wholly unwarranted.

…However, because Dr. Golb has vowed to appeal, and thereby prolong this case, I unfortunately believe this is not the end, but rather only the latest, never-ending chapter in the continued legacy of the Dead Sea Scrolls

The push for an appeal appears to be coming from Golb’s lawyer, Ron Kuby, who claims that Golb merely engaged in “first degree blogging”, and that the judgement serves only to protect “elite scholars”. Golb himself has offered a grudging, partial, and passive-aggressive apology:

 “Before this case, I did not know that satirical hoaxes of the sort were treated as crimes in the United States of America, but as this court said, ignorance of the law is not an excuse,” and, “I can only say that if I have indeed violated the law, I am terribly sorry and have no choice but to accept whatever the consequences are for me.”

As someone who has seen cyber-bullying and harassment in action, I know that it is a particulary vile activity that needs to be stamped down on – and it’s remarkable how many adults who should be old enough to know better are willing to debase themselves by indulging in it. For cowards and inadequates, the ability to cause trouble on-line while hiding behind a keyboard doubtless gives a sense of empowerment which is just too tempting to pass over.