A federal appeals court has thrown out one man’s conviction for wearing military medals he did not earn.
The Unites States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that wearing unearned military medals constitutes a protected form of free speech.
The case revolves around a Elven Swisher who lied about secret missions to Korea and classified awars to receive $2,366 a month in benefits from the Veterans Administration. Among his fraudulent claims, Swisher laims he also received a Silver Star, a Bronze Star with “V” device, and a Purple Heart.
According to Stars and Stripes, Swisher:
…served in the Marine Corps from 1954 to 1957, the Chronicle reported. In 2001, he applied for disability benefits, claiming he had been wounded in a secret mission to North Korea in 1955, after the Korean War ended. The Department of Veterans Affairs granted the request in 2004 after Swisher submitted what appeared to be a military document saying he had been awarded a Silver Star and other medals for his actions.
But the VA learned in 2006 that the document was forged and ordered Swisher to repay the benefits, the paper noted. He was later convicted and sentenced to a year in prison on charges that included stealing government funds and
wearing unauthorized medals at a veterans’ event.
The appeals court upheld Swisher’s conviction in 2009, but he filed a new appeal after the court, in a 2010 case, struck down a federal law that made it a crime to lie about earning military decorations. The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 6-3 ruling, agreed with the Ninth Circuit in June 2012 that the law violated freedom of speech. But three months later, in another case, a different Ninth Circuit panel upheld the ban on wearing unearned military medals.
Investigators looked into Swisher’s military claims after he testified to the awards during a 2005 trial of a man charged with soliciting the murder of a federal judge.
You can read the full decision here (PDF link).