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Lawyer for accused faker: Some lies have value

Nov. 1, 2010 - 01:28PM   |   Last Updated: Nov. 1, 2010 - 01:28PM  |  
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DENVER — Lawyers for a California man who pleaded guilty to lying about getting a military medal are arguing that falsehoods sometimes have value.

The case is one of two that are challenging the federal Stolen Valor Act, which makes it a crime to falsely claim to be a war hero.

In California, Xavier Alvarez of Pomona pleaded guilty to falsely claiming he was awarded the Medal of Honor, but he also challenged the constitutionality of the law. A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals court sided with him and ruled the law violated the 1st Amendment. Prosecutors asked the full court to review the ruling, but the court hasn't said whether it will.

Alvarez's lawyers filed documents last week arguing against another review.

They cite John Milton, a 17th century writer, and John Stuart Mill, a 19th century philosopher, to argue that falsehoods can improve public debate by spurring the search for truth. They also said the three-judge panel's ruling was clear, that some lies are protected by the 1st Amendment and that Alvarez's false claim to have a medal posed no clear and present danger.

The other challenge is in Colorado. A federal court in Denver ruled the law is unconstitutional, and prosecutors say they will appeal.

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