Wednesday, May 14, 2014

New York's Top Court Vacates Some of the Convictions In Dead Sea Scrolls Controversy

In People v. Golb, (NY Ct. App., May 13, 2014), New York's Court of Appeals (its highest appellate court) dismissed some, but not all, of the convictions growing out of a dispute over the origins of the Dead Sea Scrolls. As explained by the court:
Norman Golb, defendant's father, is a professor at the University of Chicago, and a scholar on the subject of the Scrolls. There is disagreement among scholars and experts about who wrote the Scrolls. One view, known as the Qumran-Sectarian theory, or Sectarian theory, is that the Scrolls were writings of a Jewish sect, living in or near Qumran. Norman Golb and others disagree.... They believe that the Scrolls were writings of various groups and that the writings were rescued from libraries in Jerusalem and brought to the caves for safekeeping at the time of the siege and sacking of the city by Roman troops in 70 C.E. (the Jerusalem libraries theory).
Defendant Raphael Golb, Professor Norman Golb's son, decided to defend his father's academic views through an Internet campaign attacking the integrity and reputation of academics and scholars who disagreed with his father's theory. According to the court, to accomplish this:
defendant, using pseudonyms and impersonating real academics and scholars, sent emails to museum administrators, academics and reporters. He published anonymous blogs. He concocted an elaborate scheme in which he used a pseudonym to engage one professor in an email exchange, and then impersonated a different scholar to criticize that professor's emails. Defendant impersonated a New York University (NYU) professor and sent emails to NYU students and NYU deans indicating that the professor had plagiarized the work of Professor Golb.
The court affirmed most of the criminal impersonation convictions of defendant,  but vacated the convictions based on the mere creation of false e-mail accounts that were never used. The court vacated defendant's convictions for aggravated harassment, finding that Penal Law § 240.30(1) is unconstitutionally vague and overbroad. The court upheld defendant's convictions for forgery, but vacated his convictions for unauthorized use of a computer and identity theft.

Chief Judge Lippman dissented in part, arguing that the entire indictment should be dismissed.  Capital New York reports on the decision.