Convictions Against Dead Sea Scrolls Sockpuppeter Partially Upheld

Robert Cargill reports:

The NY Court of Appeals upheld 9 convictions of criminal impersonation and all 10 forgery convictions in the case of the People of NY v. Raphael Golb, in which the defendant created an army of pseudonymous online sock puppets to criticize, harass, and ultimately impersonate various scholars who disagreed with the academic findings of his father, Dr. Norman Golb, concerning the Dead Sea Scrolls.

I’ve blogged about the case several times previously: Golb was brought to justice in large part due to Robert’s careful attention to detail, which Golb’s lawyer sought to stigmatise as “obsessive” and “stalking” (an accusation that is often the first refuge when unwelcome attention is directed at internet activity undertaken in bad faith).

Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman issued a dissenting opinion, although Eugene Volokh says that “I think the majority opinion is likely right as a statutory matter, and that its analysis is consistent with the First Amendment.”

However, the court also overturned harassment and related charges, on the general grounds that the state’s aggravated harassment statute is “unconstitutionally vague and overbroad.” Inevitably, Golb’s supporters have preferred to dwell on that aspect of the Appeal Court ruling; as Howard Fredrics announced it on Twitter:

@bungarsargon NYS Appellate overturns nearly ALL charges in #RaphaelGolb #DeadSeaScrolls case. NY Harassment law OUT

Fredrics’ Tweet was directed at – and retweeted by – Batya Ungar-Sargon. Ungar-Sargon previously wrote a preposterous piece on Golb for the US Tablet, in which it appeared that Golb (described as “a brilliant young Harvard Ph.D.”, although he’s actually past 50) had been persecuted for sending one email that was obviously a parody. I picked apart her account here.

Lippmann’s dissent shows that there may be different views on the criminality of Golb’s behaviour, but there is absolutely nothing to debate over what his actions tell us about his character.

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