New York's highest court on Tuesday will consider whether to overturn convictions in the Internet impersonation case of a man who argues that mocking scholars in an academic debate about the Dead Sea Scrolls was free speech protected by the Constitution.
Raphael Golb, an attorney and writer, was convicted of identity theft and other charges for disguising his identity in email messages and blog posts from 2006 to 2009 to discredit detractors of his father, a University of Chicago professor, in a dispute over the scrolls' origins. The more than 2,000-year-old documents, found in the 1940s in what is now Israel, contain the earliest known versions of portions of the Hebrew Bible.
According to the Christian Science Monitor: Many scholars, including New York University Judaic studies chairman Lawrence Schiffman, say the texts were assembled by a sect known as the Essenes. Others — including Norman Golb, a University of Chicago historian and Golb's father — believe the writings were the work of a range of Jewish groups and communities, gathered from libraries in Jerusalem and hidden in caves near Qumran to protect them during a Roman invasion in about 70 A.D.
Golb's lawyer, Ronald Kuby, argues that the trial judge's jury instructions failed to protect his client's rights to free speech under the First Amendment of the Constitution, and it lerights to free speech under the First Amendment of the Constitution, and it led to his convictions "precisely because his online impersonations called attention to, condemned and mocked alleged wrongdoing on the part of the Scrollmonopolists and exhibitors."
"It's like the world's oldest controversy playing out in the world's newest medium," Kuby told The Associated Press, adding that online satire, criticism and blogging either anonymously or behind pseudonyms are widespread. "The underlying issue is: Can you criminalize these Internet impersonations as fraud when there's no financial benefit or tangible property associated with it?"