Feds Indict Man For Wearing Army Combat Uniform And Displaying Medals

August 29, 2012

Soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Division conduc...

Soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Division conduct an area reconnaissance mission in . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On August 28, 2012, a federal grand jury in the Northern District of Alabama indicted Christopher Bernard Graham, 45, Huntsville, AL (a/k/a Christopher Harold Graham and Christopher Graham Lyndsey), with

  • one count of fraud in relation to identification documents;
  • two counts of unauthorized wearing of the U.S. Army Combat Uniform; and
  • eight counts of unauthorized wearing of U.S. military badges, decorations, or medals.

Federal prosecutors charged that between October 1, 2010 and April 20, 2011, and then again between November 1, 2011 and April 1, 2012, Graham wore without authorization the U.S. Army Combat Uniform. During those same two time periods, the Indictment alleges that Graham also wore without authorization:

  • the Combat Infantry Badge,
  • the Army Ranger Tab,
  • the Army Parachute Qualification Badge, and
  • the Army Air Assault Qualification Badges.

Finally, Graham is charged with possession of an identification card on August 14, 2012, that was illegally produced to appear as though it were issued under the authority of the United States.

NOTE: The charges in an Indictment are merely allegations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

If convicted, Graham faces the following maximum penalties on each count:

  • Fraud (felony): 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine;
  • The unauthorized wearing of a U.S. military uniform or of military badges, decorations and medals (misdemeanors): 6 months in prison and $5,000 fines.

However . . .

The Supreme Court recently held in United States v. Alvarez (US Supreme Court, June 28, 2012) that theStolen Valor Act  of 2005 was an unconstitutional abridgment of the First Amendment. Consider the xcerpt below from the Court's Syllabus:

The Stolen Valor Act makes it a crime to falsely claim receipt of military decorations or medals and provides an enhanced penalty if the Congressional Medal of Honor is involved. 18 U. S. C. §§704 (b), (c).Respondent pleaded guilty to a charge of falsely claiming that he had received the Medal of Honor, but reserved his right to appeal his claim that the Act is unconstitutional. The Ninth Circuit reversed, finding the Act invalid under the First Amendment. Held: The judgment is affirmed. . .

The Government points to no evidence supporting its claim that the public's general perception of military awards is diluted by false claims such as those made by respondent. And it has not shown, and cannot show, why counter speech, such as the ridicule respondent received online and in the press, would not suffice to achieve its interest.

In addition, when the Government seeks to regulate protected speech, the restriction must be the "least restrictive means among available, effective alternatives." Ashcroft, 542 U. S., at 666. Here, the Government could likely protect the integrity of the military awards system by creating a database of Medal winners accessible and searchable on the Internet, as some private individuals have already done. . .

Also, visit this site for information on recipients of U.S. military awards for valor: http://valor.defense.gov/Home.aspx