I have previously criticized past prosecutions for stolen valor (here and here) as a threat to the first amendment. Such cases are deterred through social stigma and simple research. We have criminal laws allowing for the prosecution of those who use false claims to secure financial gain or benefits. Such is the case with former Marine Brandon Blackstone, who stole a combat veteran’s story of valor to secure a house and benefits. He is now facing 21 years in jail for his crimes in assuming the valor of Casey Owens, left, who lost both legs in combat. Blackstone served in the same unit as Owens.
Owens lost his legs to an anti-tank mine in 2004 and was awarded the Purple Heart. After battling physical and mental pain, he took his own life ten years later in 2014.
Blackstone claimed that he was injured in the Humvee explosion in Iraq and suffered traumatic brain injury. He was given a home and benefits as a result. His mistake was showing a picture of the mangled Humvee to one of Owens’ Marine buddies who witnessed the explosion. All of the years of speaking to groups about his valor came crashing down and he ultimately pleaded guilty to the federal charges that were based on his accepting a home and receiving disability benefits.
Blackstone actually left Iraq with simple appendicitis.
The Supreme Court struck down the Stolen Valor Act. In United States v. Alvarez, No. 11-210, the Court held 6-3 that it is unconstitutional to criminalize lies — in that case lying about receiving military decorations or medals. The Blackstone case shows that, when people use such claims for financial gain, they have been prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
What do you think the appropriate punishment should be for Blackstone?
19 thoughts on “Ex-Marine Pleads Guilty to Stealing The Valor Of Fellow Marine To Secure A House and Other Benefits”
Put them on a registry of persons who falsify their military records, like sex offenders. Stand trial for theft for any benefits or financial gain. Early in my Marine Corps Career I reported in a new barracks and was almost immediately accosted and regaled by the duty NCO for several hours about his recent experience in Vietnam. Later another member of the company younger and lower in rank but an actual hardened combat veteran explained that the stories I had listened to over the hours covered less than 24 hours in country. The valiant NCO was a tank mechanic who had driven an newly delivered tank from a Naval Transport at a Da Nang dock to a staging area 2 miles away. When the transport left the dock the returning drivers were forced to spend the night in Da Nang and then returned to their ship by launch in the morning. The lesson I learned, the more self aggrandizing the stories, the less likely they are true.
The normal course of events in obtaining VA benefits includes the submission of the form DD214. He had to have forged the DOD document and then submitted it along with several forms which clearly state the penalty for perjury.
His is a case of several felonies. The valor aspect is besides the point.
Stolen valor shouldn’t be a crime. It should be a civil tort, something akin to slander. Prof. Turley thought about public shame and alienation being punitive I think is accurate and punishment enough.
On the other hand, receiving benefits by trick is plain old fraud. He should be shackled, pound rocks at a quarry for several years, and pay restitution to the government or to whomever for the free checks he received each month. Hose bag.
Stolen Valor claims are not made by honorable people. If you find that kind of claim, you will normally find criminal activity of some sort, even if not related to their disgusting lies about service. Punish the crime, and make their name and face as widely known as possible, so the world will know that the person is a disgusting slimeball.
Anyone who falsely claims a physical disability is clearly mentally disabled. How do we deal with highly destructive mental disabilities? Prisons? Mental institutions? Sedatives? Straight jackets? For starters, take away their ability to reproduce.
Doglover – you are a proponent of eugenics. The problem is we know that certain mental illnesses are inherited, but not all. And even the ones that are inherited, are not inherited by everyone in the family. And some don’t show up until adulthood. Even for eugenics it is not an easy problem.
This story neglects the fact that both were criminals that violated the Constitution as congress had not declared war. Furthermore they were both war criminals as a war of aggression is by definition a war crime.
I am always amazed at the inconsistency of these type arguments. The same people that make your claim are the very people that allow the government all kinds of powers not granted in our constitution, yet can’t see nay possible way that the military can be used outside a declaration of war, even if congress assents by specifically funding those actions.
You mean he lied to get stuff he did not deserve? Well if Trump gets to keep the Presidency then this guy should keep the house. That’s the kind of America that was voted in. Trump and his lies make this guy eligible for a medal.
There are therapies for obsessive compulsive disorder.
Since it is a simple con job, identity theft, he should serve whatever the maximum is for that crime. Plus, forfeit the house and benefits.
He should have to endure the same brutal punishment that all those Wall Street bankers had to endure when they helped crash the economy by packaging and selling fraudulent mortgage-backed securities, and the same brutal punishment that HSBC employees had to endure for engaging in massive money laundering, and the same…….er……, oh forget it! Just have him serve four years in Trump’s cabinet. That will be worse than being waterboarded. Then, IF he survives that ordeal, 10 years in Club Fed.
Sorry, I can’t even think about this case, the story of the suicide just make me physically ill.
Takeaway, if I can be humored: if you know someone, anyone, considering joining the military, if you care about them at all, and if the opportunity arises, please do converse w/then about Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler’s philosophy on the military and war, converse w/them about the current wars being illegal (not declared by Congress), tell them how many returning soldiers commit suicide daily, do whatever you can to convince the person to not sign up.
Butler was a courageous fighting man, and a decent tactician that had more than one screw loose.
Butler is the only man I know of that was awarded TWO Medals of Honor. He also was a patriot who told the truth, and revealed the plot to have a coup designed to prevent FDR from taking office. FDR should have put DuPont and the others on trial for treason and taken all of their property. The only persons who have a screw loose are those who know nothing about the man.
Then you know there was absolutely no evidence beyond Butler;s wild a__ tales.
He may be the only officer to have received two Medals of Honor, but Sgt. Maj. Daniel Daly received two also.
A Marine who doesn’t have any wild a__ tales isn’t worth his salt pork and hardtack to any other Marine.
I think that a few years in a Marine brig should straiten him out.
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