oh… so you were just kidding this whole time

Raphael Golb

Raphael Golb, accused of multiple counts of forgery, identity theft, aggravated harassment, and impersonation

direct from the ‘you have got to be kidding me’ wing of the lawyering hall of shame comes this, as reported by the chronicle of higher education on november 7, 2009:

A novel legal argument is being used to defend a New York man accused of stealing identities and using them to send e-mail messages and make online comments designed to discredit his father’s academic rivals over their interpretations of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Associated Press reports. The defense lawyer for the accused man, Raphael Golb, says that most of the charges against his client should be dismissed because to uphold them would imperil pranks, parodies, blog comments made under assumed names, and other freewheeling elements of the Internet. Mr. Golb has pleaded not guilty to charges of identity theft and criminal impersonation, in a case originally detailed in The Chronicle. His lawyer, Ronald Kuby, said in court filings this week that whoever sent the messages under other people’s names — and it wasn’t his client — was putting on an “intellectual prank” protected by the First Amendment.

where does one begin? we knew golb and his defense would attempt to turn this into a soapbox for a referendum on his father’s views. we knew that he would attempt to prove his ridiculous accusations were ‘true’ by trying to drag up a bunch of conspiracy nonsense in a trial. we even knew that he would attempt to argue that identity theft and impersonation were protected under the first amendment right to free speech. we expected all this.

what we didn’t expect was for golb’s defense to use a ‘it was a joke’ defense. how would that even sound? how does one claim that a two-year campaign of harassment and defamation ultimately resulting in impersonation, forgery, and identity theft was just a ‘prank’? well, perhaps the defense would sound something like this:

[and yes, the following is a parody of what a 'just kidding' or 'intellectual prank' defense might sound like. the actual defense may differ, and the following parody in no way purports to be the actual words of raphael golb or his attorney]

you thought i was serious?? ha ha ha ha! oh man, aaahhhh, sorry. i was just kidding. it was just a prank. i was just foolin’.

sorry about impersonating you, dr. schiffman. i was just kidding. man, you should have seen the expression on your face. lol. boy, did you get punk’d. when i wrote to your grad students and wrote in the first person and pretended to be you from an email address i created that bore your name, dude, i was totally joking. when i confessed to a crime you didn’t commit on your behalf, i wasn’t bein’ serious. everyone knew i was totally kidding. dude, all those nyu administrators and your colleagues that i spammed accusing you of plagiarizing my daddy, i was so totally just kidding. i wasn’t serious. you had to know it was just an intellectual joke. i just know we’re all gonna just look back at this whole thing and just laugh.

and sorry about that cargill. when i wrote to your faculty and questioned whether you should receive your phd, i was just joshin’. my bad. you had to know that my criticisms weren’t serious. i was just playin’. all those times i accused you of plagiarism and all those times i made fun of you for being a christian, and all those times i wrote to museums like toronto and tried to keep your research from ending up in museum exhibitions, dude, i was just kidding. i wasn’t trying to cause you actual fiscal damage. not at all! it was more like an episode of punk’d. me and ashton kutcher, we’re like this. and when my dad asked for a copy of your unpublished movie script, and you actually agreed to send it to him out of a sense of professionalism, even though he was a known critic?? boy, i could have warned you on that one, dude! you were so naïve! and when you put those warnings on the top of the script and in the email accompanying the script stating that absolutely no portion of your unpublished script could be reproduced, and dad still reproduced several passages online in a critique, dude, you should have totally seen that comin’. you can’t take dad’s criticisms seriously – for crying out loud, he can only ‘publish’ (and i use the term loosely) by self-publishing some rant he wrote and then slappin’ it up on the oriental institute website. no one ever publishes his nonsense anymore. besides, dad was only kidding! and when the oi lawyers removed his critique of your movie from the oi website, he knew you and your legal advisors were just kidding too. see, we were both just kidding around. but seriously cargill, it was all just a joke. i was just playin’ a prank. why are you harshin’ my mellow??

and sorry san diego natural history museum and north carolina museum of natural sciences and royal ontario museum. you thought i was really trying to drive down your ticket sales by criticizing your exhibitions? you thought i was trying to harm your bottom line when i wrote to journalists and encouraged them to investigate the ‘controversy’ that dad and i stirred up? you thought my critiques of your exhibitions were serious?? no, i was just playing a little prank. i wasn’t trying to drive away visitors and cost you actual dollars. i was jus’ keeeding.

and sorry bart ehrman about publishing private correspondence online. that was totally a joke. in fact, daddy and i got a real kick out of that one here in chicago over the holiday. you actually thought i was a real person?? ha ha ha.

and risa, wow, i don’t know what to say. you thought i was serious? you thought i was trying to harm your reputation and career? those letters i wrote to newspapers and journalists about you were simply parody. everyone knows i like to joke and kid. c’mon, you thought i was serious? i’m just like stephen colbert – there was totally an expectation of parody in my tone. everyone knows i’m a jokester. i wasn’t really trying to hurt you, i just wanted to make you laugh. it was all one big prank.

and david noel freedman, i know you’re dead and all, but when i criticized you and called you a fraud only days after your death, man, i’ll bet you were rolling over in your grave. i was sooo just kidding.

and bill schniedewind, when i was going onto your wikipedia page and accusing you of all sorts of stuff, dude, i was totally just playin’. i knew you’d see it was a joke, and that those ten different aliases were all me just trying to see how much crap i could get up on your page. and dude, you didn’t even fight back. you just took it. it was kind of a bummer, but it’s cool now bro, you know i was just pullin’ your chain.

[thus ends the parody.]

this is perhaps the most novel defense in recent history: he will literally stand up before a real judge in a real court and argue  ‘i was just kidding.’ i wonder if that same defense will work with some of the terrorists that golb’s attorney, ron kuby, defends:

[begin parody]

yes, i know i blew up that building, but me and the boys were just blowin’ off steam. we were just joking. it wasn’t meant to be serious…

[end parody]

if one’s defense is ‘it was just a prank,’ and said prank goes too far and breaks the law, then said prankster is responsible. the same is true for accidents that take place in vehicles when the driver is just ‘foolin’ around.’

again, i shake my head…

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7 Responses

  1. Sounds like something the producers of Law & Order would come up with during a writer’s strike.

  2. exactly, or a colbert parody of the trial. lol. thanx for the tip.

  3. Does this one-up the “twinkie defense”?

  4. look, anything can happen in a courtroom. but to argue that if we punish raphael golb for these crimes, then no jokes or parodies online will be safe, is a scare tactic, slippery slope, that is stretching, reaching, and desperate. imho.

  5. It’d be hilarious if the court sentence went like this:

    Judge: Mr. Golb, your actions are appalling and clearly outside the bounds of humor. I am equally disgusted by your so-called “defense”, which might as well be given by a comedian. I hereby sentence you to .
    Golb: Seriously?!
    Judge: No.
    Golb: Oh, thank–
    Judge: Kidding! I got you gooood, boy! *bangs gavel*

  6. [...] oh… so you were just kidding this whole time (dec 10, 2009) [...]

  7. [...] Sea Scrolls, attempting to put Dr. Schiffman on trial for plagiarism he did not commit, or using a parody/satire/I was just kidding/it was all a joke defense, the jury saw through defense tactics and found Dr. Golb [...]

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