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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Man Who Shot Himself in Leg to Get a Purple Heart Got Convicted Instead

Posted By on Wed, Sep 28, 2011 at 4:45 PM

purpleheart.jpg

A man who served three months of 1971 in Vietnam as a cargo specialist shot himself in the leg 20 years later and claimed it was a shrapnel wound. As a result, he earned a Purple Heart and $180,000 in disability benefits from the VA in 1994.

He later pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud for stealing the disability benefits and for wearing the medal to a national convention of the Military Order of the Purple Heart in Las Vegas.

The defendant, David Perelman, attempted to appeal the second count by saying the Stolen Valor Act -- which makes wearing a medal like the Purple Heart without express authorization a criminal act -- is too broad and unconstitutionally vague. What's more, he claimed if he's a criminal, then so are grieving widows, actors, and others who wear the medals without having earned them.

But this week, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco declared that argument a stretch. The court clarified the distinction for Perelman, saying he was clearly donning his medal with the intent to deceive others.

"Because the grieving widow, the proud grandchild, the actor on stage, and the protester lack an intent to deceive, the wearing of the medals in those circumstances does not fall within the criminal statute," circuit judge Susan Graber wrote for the court.

Needless to say, Perelman turned in his medal of honor for a badge of shame.

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Ellen Huet

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