The Appellate Court of the State of New York decided yesterday, January 29, 2013 to uphold the 2010 conviction of Raphael Golb. He was convicted of identity theft, criminal impersonation, forgery, aggravated harassment, and unauthorized use of a computer.
Golb is the son of Norman Golb, the well-known scholar on the Dead Sea Scrolls and professor of Jewish History at the University of Chicago. Raphael Golb was accused of sending email in which he pretended to be other scholars who disagreed with his father’s view on the origin of the Scrolls.
Golb created dozens of aliases and used them to harass and discredit scholars who disagreed with his father’s theories about the origins of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
In upholding the decision of the judge who presided over the case, the Appellate Court said in part:
Defendant argues that it is constitutionally impermissible to include an intent to influence a constitutionally-protected academic debate within the concept of fraud, injury or benefit, that allowing injury to reputation to satisfy the injury element would effectively revive the long-abandoned offense of criminal libel, and that, in any event, the alleged truth of the content of the emails should have been permitted as a defense. However, the evidence established that defendant intended harm that fell within the plain meaning of the term “injure,” and that was not protected by the First Amendment, including damage to the careers and livelihoods of the scholars he impersonated. Defendant also intended to create specific benefits for his father’s career. The fact that the underlying dispute between defendant and his father’s rivals was a constitutionally-protected debate does not provide any First Amendment protection for acts that were otherwise unlawful.
Defendant was not prosecuted for the content of any of the emails, but only for giving the false impression that his victims were the actual authors of the emails. The First Amendment protects the right to criticize another person, but it does not permit anyone to give an intentionally false impression that the source of the message is that other person.
Unfortunately, I was inadvertently involved in this controversy since my blog was used as a forum by Raphael Golb to attack other scholars and cast aspersions on those who disagreed with the views espoused by his father.
You can read the decision of the Appellate Court of New York here.
You can read some of the posts I wrote on the controversy by following the links below:
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
HT: I want to thank Jim West for calling my attention to the decision of the court.