Thursday, March 27, 2014

Dead Sea Scrolls now in State's Highest Court: First Amendment Case More Important Than You Think

Raphael Golb's appeals hearing,
New York State Court of Appeals

Court Weighs Severity Of Impersonation On The Internet
reprint from:
New York Law Journal, Joel Stashenko
March 26, 2014    |2 Comments
ALBANY - The behavior of a man who assumed a false identity to discredit scholars who were in a professional dispute with the man's father over the origins of the Dead Sea Scrolls is "absolutely ubiquitous" in the Internet age and is not criminal, the man's lawyer told the state's highest court Tuesday.

"If we want to go back and resurrect criminal libel in the Internet era we can do that," defense attorney Ronald Kuby told the court. "But, at least since 1965, the law has been that these types of reputational harms are beyond the scope of criminal law."

Kuby argued in People v. Golb, 72, that the Manhattan District Attorney's Office overreached by charging Raphael Golb with two felonies and 28 misdemeanors for his activities between 2006 and 2009 in which he used aliases on the Internet to discredit scholars who disagreed with his father, Norman Golb.

Those rivals, including the former head of Jewish studies at New York University, Lawrence Schiffman, ascribed to the traditional view that the Dead Sea Scrolls were the work of a Jewish sect called the Essenes. Golb believes the scrolls, which contain perhaps the earliest recorded version of the Old Testament, were collected from libraries in Jerusalem and hidden in a cave to protect them from a Roman invasion about the year 70 A.D.

...Among Raphael Golb's activities in defense of his father's position was disseminating emails under in which Golb confessed, assuming Schiffman's identity, that he plagiarized Norman Golb's work.

"Wasn't this a vicious thing to do, to try to ruin a man like this?" Judge Robert Smith asked Kuby.

"Telling the truth about a bad man [Schiffman] in a specific way, is that a bad thing to do?" Kuby replied. "I don't know. I'm sort of OK with it. You're not. That's fine, but we're talking about use of a criminal sanction."

Kuby maintained that Raphael Golb's tactics posing as others on the Internet was both protected by the First Amendment free speech guarantees and so obviously the work of a person other than Schiffman or the other scholars as to be a parody.

In any event, Kuby argued that the criminal prosecution for what he called "literary impersonation" resulting in Golb's convictions for criminal impersonation, forgery, aggravated harassment and unauthorized use of a computer were unusually harsh, and he urged the judges to discard them.

Kuby said Golb's behavior would cross the line into criminality only if Schiffman or other targets of his discrediting activities suffered a financial loss or other concrete damages because of them.

The lively half-hour of oral arguments featured frequent references to instances in popular culture where people assume the identities of others—Smith mentioned Tina Fey's impersonations of former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live—without risking criminal prosecution.

Assistant Manhattan District Attorney Vincent Rivellese said of all Golb's activities, sending emails under Schiffman's name in which he "admitted" committing plagiarism was the most serious.

But Rivellese faced skeptical questions from several judges about whether Golb's Internet postings rose to the level of aggravated harassment or the other crimes for which he was convicted.

"Is this aggravated harassment, or just annoying behavior?" Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman asked.

"It's both, that's for sure," Rivellese responded.

"Isn't that a little overbroad?" Lippman asked.

"No," Rivellese said.

Smith chimed in, asking whether he could face prosecution for aggravated harassment if he asked a question that he knew was going to be annoying.

Rivellese said he could, if the question was in writing.

"Really? Really?" Smith said incredulously. "If I email somebody an annoying question, I get a year?"

Golb was convicted of two felonies and 30 misdemeanors and sentenced to six months in jail and five years' probation.

Golb, a literary scholar, has a degree from New York University School of Law.

Prosecutors said his criminal case stemmed from a scholarly dispute between his father Norman, a professor at the University of Chicago, and his rivals over the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Golb acknowledged turning to more aggressive tactics on the Internet beginning in 2006, when discussions about the Dead Sea Scrolls coinciding with a tour of the scrolls to San Diego, New York and other cities in North America failed to note his father's competing research on their origins.

In his brief, Kuby contended that the trial judge, Justice Carol Berkman, failed to restrict the definitions of "injury" and "harm" as applied to the victims. That caused Golb to be convicted of criminality when he did nothing more than bruise the feelings of rival scholars while expressing opinions that were protected under the First Amendment, Kuby argued.

An Appellate Division, First Department, panel unanimously affirmed all but one of Golb's convictions. It threw out one count of second-degree identity theft, a felony, finding that he did not intend to commit a fraud for personal benefit of at least $1,000, as the charge requires (NYLJ, Jan. 31, 2013).

@|Joel Stashenko can be reached at Twitter: @JoelStashenko

Background info of this case which I wrote myself:
Raphael Golb's Dead Sea Scrolls Controversy May Turn Into YOUR Controversy

original post of this NYLJ article (you must register free, to read p. 2 & 3)

Photos:  ‘The Great Isaiah Scroll,’ part of the Dead Sea Scrolls found at Khirbet Qumran in the West Bank. Left: Raphael Golb, son of a Dead Sea Scroll scholar, in Manhattan Appeals Court in 2010..
Photo: Louis Lanzano/AP. Image of scroll courtesy of the Israel Museum.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Raphael Golb's Dead Sea Scrolls Controversy May Turn into YOUR Controversy

Raphael Golb in the middle. 
Setting a Disturbing Precedent? 
Annie Ling, NYT, insert; Rina Castelnuovo, background

General Introduction to
                         as Disturbing PRECEDENT

This case seems to have widespread implications, although it appears on the surface merely an obscure academic rivalry between two professors over Who Wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls. With the quirk that a son protested by pulling a prank, and now is being over-harshly censured.

But perhaps this is actually a serious precedent-setting case:
Is ONLINE mockery a Civil case (lawsuit)-- or could it ever be a Felony punishable by sentence to a State penitentiary?

And in fact, last month The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (as well as the Assoc of New York State) filed a brief finding the judge's interpretation and instructions to Golb's jury "unconstitutionally" vague and inappropriate, and concluded that Golb's case should never have been in the Criminal courts in the first place. Read the brief.**

Raphael Golb was frustrated that for years people ignored his father's claim that academic rival Schiffman had plagiarized him (Golb senior). So Golb (son) played a prank, emailing a fake "confession" from "Schiffman," catching the readers' attention and directing them to a link which was actually Golb's own website.

His website gave a detailed demonstration of how he believed Schiffman plagiarized his father. You have to admit you can see why Golb thought emailing this "confession" would be humorous.

Obviously Golb's emails were for his accusations of plagiarism, not to make people think he was the real Schiffman actually confessing. Golb made sure to put his own "fingerprints" all over those emails.

It hinges on something you studied in high school literature: what is the definition of "parody." You want to criticize someone, so you "speak in" their name & voice- but reveal what you actually think of them. People believe at first that you're the actual person- then the full flavor of your satire takes them by surprise.

Some of our greatest thinkers have pulled this trick. A powerful tool of criticism that not only gets people's attention, it's also humorous and- most importantly- a way to criticize the powerful that's anonymous and safe.

When Raphael "confessed" for Schiffman, was that "parody"- or a full-on internet crime of impersonation?

Imprisoned for mocking someone online? Think about it... ONLINE is where the weak have an equal shot at the powerful, can criticize and mock them. People all over the world have discovered this wonderful power. First Amendment rights promise that if you criticize someone, the government protects you from their revenge. 

The worst they can throw at you is a Civil lawsuit, not the Federal penitentiary, not revenge through law.

"Online" is the territory the US Feds are only now attempting to chart. We should have been more vigilant as to how they're planning to chart it. Everyone's so busy protesting their youtube videos being taken down- they should have been monitoring this case instead.

Hopefully there will never be a case in which a Felony does indeed become an option. But I say- this case may be just such a one. And not only that- think of all the speech-squelch countries looking at the USA and other free-speech countries, seeing how we do things.

In fact even Schiffman's Dean testified that NYU understood from the first day that it was just Raphael, and chose to ignore the whole thing. So where's the fire? Why didn't Schiffman simply SUE Golb for online Libel? Why did Schiffman instead call his aquaintance on the FBI (at least as I heard it), to press a Criminal case against the son of his academic rival, instead of a Civil one?

Imagine if this becomes a precedent for online criticism- somebody criticizes you , you can get the Feds to step in and execute vengeance for them. Imagine this scenario repeated other places, with other people. When it isn't about the Dead Sea Scrolls but about a corporation, a politician, an institution, corruption, etc. All because of some obscure Dead Sea Scrolls professor's vendetta on the son of a rival.  People in power or with connections could wield permission from the Feds to imprison anyone who mocks them. Now THAT'S power, and the consequences could be a lot scarier than a prankster son in the pen.

Read the nearly 100 examples of other internet mockery through hoaxes and parodies, not one of which resulted in a criminal case. All people were either sued, excused, ignored- or in many cases actually even rewarded, for being so clever! You will find it quite entertaining: 

Examples of Online parody, from the appendix of Golb's first Appeal brief, March 2011:

How do you go about turning a recognized prank ("mockery")- online- into a Felony? They decided to call this "Impersonation" even though it was intended to fool no one (and didn't), and no money, property, favors etc. was at stake. It was merely an accusation of plagiarism. So… easy enough! the judge simply re-defined it as anything from which the defendant receives a "BENEFIT" or the prosecution a "HARM."

This complex case had much more detail, but I'm focused only on the felony points. I am not involved in this case, have no legal training, and am no expert in any of these matters; what I know is from personal observation. I'm just a citizen giving my opinion.

**Amicus brief detailing their objections:

case in NYT:

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Dead Sea Scrolls Development: Raphael Golb's Appeal Brief, March 2011

Latest developments in the Dead Sea Scrolls trial of Raphael Golb:

Raphael Golb's attorney Ron Kuby has filed his Appeal brief, to the First Appellate Division of New York:

from Raphael Golb's Appeal brief: the Tucker Carlson hoax emails: 

Tucker Carlson opened a fake website/email for "Keith Olbermann." "Olbermann" answered a reporter, who believed him, with outrageous emails. "'s amusing as hell," said Carlson.

"The opportunity to acquire arose 
and we felt it was a market niche which we could enter and dominate 
and it would be a public service so we did it. 
Plus it's amusing as hell." -Tucker Carlson

If the court of Appeals does not overturn the Dead Sea Scrolls case, then people like Tucker Carlson stand in danger of being sent to the State Penitentiary for this "amusing" behavior.

The jist of Kuby's argument seems to be that what Raphael Golb did on the internet was simply not a crime.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Dead Sea Scrolls: Two Nov. online Articles by Golb, Golb

Raphael Golb was given permission to write.
Judge Berkman, in her November sentencing, gave Raphael permission to write about his case.

Raphael Golb has written his own account of his Dead Sea Scrolls case (link below).

In his essay below, Raphael provides a multitude of details, most of which will be quite new to readers.
Raphael's essay ties together loose ends; shows everyone's part in the case; etc; and it will be clearer how the case was too complicated for a jury.
(A great deal of his account, you will find, my own blog had gotten wrong, or halfway, or not at all)

Raphael Golb: "The Dead Sea Scrolls Scandal: How I Was Convicted of a Crime" Nov. 2010:

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

New Post coming soon: "Yeah, It's a Jewish Thing, Isn't it Always?" Dead Sea Scrolls, Raphael Golb

giant "Menorah of Freedom," 
lit by Chabad Houses around the world


שמח חנוכה
Happy Chanukah!

begins tonight after nightfall 

Yes when all is said and done, it all boils down to being Jewish. Doesn't it always?
Stay tuned: new Dead Sea Scrolls post, coming later this week.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

What INTERNET PRECEDENTS Are Set by Raphael Golb's PRISON SENTENCE? Dead Sea Scrolls

(And yes, today the Court system DOES seem like a lottery)

It is my understanding, please correct me if I'm wrong, that even a felon can be eligible for rooming with other non-violent, minimum-security inmates. Why choose the most physically dangerous place to send skinny 125 lb bookworm Raphael Golb, fellow Jew, and son of an academic rival? Do they throw in minnows like him to provide easy victims for the sharks?

For some inmates, Rikers Island is as good as a death sentence (or nearly)- or at least, continual fear thereof- I was not aware that beatings, death and rape, or the torture of non-stop expecting it- are on the lawbooks as the punishment for blogging and emailing- or even "identity theft" for that matter. Or even (as they claim) begrudging a professor a $650 lecture.

Many of the newspapers were present for the sentencing; I briefly discuss their reports at the end of this post.**

For now I just want to mention a few stray things; and then make some guesses about what PRECEDENTS this conviction may set. I read in the papers that covered the trial that Raphael Golb's case is the first of its kind, that no one has ever been convicted of a "crime" for doing what he did. This tells me that Raphael Golb's case will probably set a precedent for internet conduct.

Monday, November 15, 2010

This post is for my Jewish Readers. Dead Sea Scrolls trial of Raphael Golb

giant "menorah of freedom," lit around the world


Yud Kislev   י כסלו       
Wednesday November 10, 2010

Yud-Tes Kislev   י"ט כסלו
New Year of Chasidut
Friday November 26, 2010

פדה בשלום נפשי מקרב לי כי ברבים היו עמד
Tehillim 55:19  He has redeemed my soul in peace . . .
A webpage describing the detailed, day-by-day progress, from the Alter Rebbe's imprisonment to his release:

from the initial complaints of the Misnagdim of Vilna; day-by-day details of the interrogations and responses; simultaneous historical events; dates of specific documents and petitions, etc.:


You may recall this event in Brooklyn, exactly a year ago:

Why choose the most physically dangerous place to send skinny 125 lb bookworm Raphael Golb, fellow Jew, and son of an academic rival? In my understanding, please correct me if I'm wrong, even a felon can be eligible for rooming with other non-violent, minimum-security inmates.

Why criminal court? Isn't this a matter for the civil courts, a lawsuit? Where's the prison-punishable crime?