Man wearing unearned Purple Heart protected under free speech, US court rules

A federal court ruled Monday that wearing unearned military medals is a protected form of free speech.

A veteran’s conviction for sporting a Purple Heart medal he didn’t earn was overturned when a federal appeals court decided it was First Amendment-protected speech and not a violation of the Stolen Valor Act, according to an AP report on Yahoo News.

The specially-summoned 11-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the 2007 conviction of former Marine Elven Joe Swisher for wearing a medal he did not earn when he testified in a criminal case.

Video of real Marines busting phony officer for stolen valor

Falsely claiming military accomplishments was a misdemeanor under the Stolen Valor Act signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2006, but was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012 because it violated First Amendment free speech protections. In 2013, President Barack Obama signed a new law making it a crime to profit financially by lying about military service.

Swisher, who was never wounded in the line of duty, was honorably discharged in 1957, and according to the 9th Circuit ruling, documents show that the former Marine had never earned any medals while in service.


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