Back in 2007, Xavier Alvarez was an Inland Empire elected official, a member of the Three Valleys Water District Board in Claremont. At a public meeting that year, Alvarez introduced himself to a group of citizens, telling the crowd that he was a retired Marine of 25 years who had been awarded the military’s highest commendation, the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Later, it was revealed that neither statement was true: Alvarez had never been in the military, and had not been awarded the Medal of Honor.
Alvarez was convicted of having violated the Federal Stolen Valor Act, passed by Congress in 2006, that made it illegal to lie about having received military awards or honors. Alvarez was sentenced to three years’ probation and a 5-thousand dollar fine. But he and his lawyer appealed the conviction, arguing that the Stolen Valor Act was an unconstitutional violation of his right to free speech, including his right to tell a lie.
The Federal Court of Appeals in San Francisco sided with Alvarez, and declared the Stolen Valor Act unconstitutional. Today, the U-S Supreme Court agreed with the Appeals Court, and by a 6-to-3 vote, threw out Alvarez’s conviction, and struck down the Stolen Valor Act as a violation of the First Amendment.
Writing for the court’s majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy said, however contemptible Alvarez’s lie was, his right to make those statements is protected by the Constitution’s guarantee of freedom of speech.