High court upholds conviction in Dead Sea Scrolls forgery case

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ALBANY -- New York's highest court largely upheld the conviction of a man who concocted an elaborate scheme to attack the integrity and reputation of Dead Sea Scrolls academics who were critical of his father's research.

The state Court of Appeals in a 6-1 decision affirmed the conviction of Raphael Golb on 19 counts of forgery and criminal impersonation, all misdemeanors. It dismissed 10 other counts, including charges for identity theft, criminal impersonation and aggravated harassment.

Golb, of Manhattan, was accused of creating roughly 80 pseudonyms, impersonating bona fide academics, publishing anonymous blogs and entrapping one scholar in an email exchange -- all for the purpose of discrediting anyone critical of Norman Golb, his father, a Dead Sea Scrolls scholar at the University of Chicago.

The younger Golb even impersonated a New York University professor and scholarly rival of the elder Golb, and sent emails to NYU students and deans saying the professor had plagiarized his father's work, according to the court.

Court documents indicate Golb "waged" his battle over the Internet from 2006 to 2009, when he was arrested in his Greenwich Village apartment. Golb faced six months in jail.

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Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam, writing for the majority, said there was "sufficient evidence to support the jury's finding" that Golb's impersonations of academics "were more than a prank intended to cause temporary embarrassment or discomfiture, and that he acted with intent to do real harm."

Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman dissented, saying Golb's transgressions should have been addressed in a lawsuit and didn't meet the threshold for criminality. Lippman said the majority's interpretation of criminal impersonation laws "criminalizes a vast amount of speech that the First Amendment protects." He said the decision would "give prosecutors power they should not have to determine what speech should and should not be penalized."

Golb's attorney did not return a call seeking comment.

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