Judge orders Marine imposter to wear “I’m a liar” sign
A US judge with a military past has ordered a Montana man to spend 50 hours on the Missoula, MT courthouse steps wearing a sandwich sign reading, "I am a liar. I am not a Marine."
William Horvath was convicted of making false statements to his probation officer. The 35 year old claimed he was a decorated US Marine veteran. It was all a lie.
But the prospect of the sight of a rare, judicially-imposed public shaming will no doubt bring national media to this conservative state – and potentially making the man a target for angry patriots.
The judge, Donald Molloy, was a Navy pilot.
It’s not the first time courts in the US have used public shaming as a punishment. In 2004, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld a "shaming" probation condition for a convicted mail thief from California.
In that case, the judge ordered the man to wear a two-sided sandwich board-style sign stating, 'I stole mail; this is my punishment,' in front of a San Francisco postal facility identified by the probation officer.
But the Montana sentence has the potential for this “creative” punishment to end in tragedy.
According to the U.S. Census, Montana has one of the highest rates of military service. It has more veterans, per capita, than any other state except Alaska. Even in sparsely-populated Montana, 10 of its soldiers have been killed on active duty in Iraq.
What makes this story interesting for a freelance or citizen reporter is that there is a lot of potential for doing quality journalism. When (and if) Horvath actually fulfills his sentence, the national media are sure to descend. They will be looking for stories, for “corroborative detail,” as the expression goes.
Americans are quite conflicted over the war in Iraq. Several soldiers are facing military justice on a wide range of charges. The memory of Abu Grahib still casts a dark shadow over its collective conscience.
And now a judge brings this all into sharp relief. It has all the makings of an iconic moment.
With files from Richard Hanners, Editor, Whitefish Pilot