NY Court of Appeals Upholds Raphael Golb’s Conviction on 29 of 30 Counts

Still Guilty - Raphael Golb

Dr. Raphael Golb, son of University of Chicago Oriental Institute historian Dr. Norman Golb, was found guilty on 30 felony and misdemeanor counts of identity theft, forgery, criminal impersonation, aggravated harassment, and the unauthorized use of a computer in the Criminal Division of the New York Supreme Court, September 30, 2010. On January 29, 2013, the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department upheld the convictions on 29 of 30 counts for which Golb was convicted.

Word from the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department this evening is that a three-judge panel ruled unanimously to uphold the convictions on 29 of 30 felony and misdemeanor counts for which Raphael Golb was convicted in 2010.

In November of 2010, the Criminal Division of the New York Supreme Court found Dr. Raphael Golb, son of University of Chicago Oriental Institute historian Dr. Norman Golb, guilty of 30 felony and misdemeanor counts of identity theft, criminal impersonation, forgery, aggravated harassment, and the unauthorized use of a computer.

Prior to the trial, Golb turned down a plea bargain agreement in which he would have pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors, paid a fine, served 80 hours of community service, and been placed on three years probation.

Instead, Golb was convicted of 2 felony counts and 28 misdemeanors, and was sentenced to six months in prison and five years of probation, in addition to incurring the cost of a jury trial defense and an appeal.

The Court of Appeals issued this decision:

People v Golb
2013 NY Slip Op 00436
Decided on January 29, 2013
Appellate Division, First Department
Published by New York State Law Reporting Bureau pursuant to Judiciary Law § 431.
This opinion is uncorrected and subject to revision before publication in the Official Reports.

Decided on January 29, 2013
Mazzarelli, J.P., Renwick, Richter, Gische, Clark, JJ.
9101 2721/09

[*1]The People of the State of New York, Respondent,
v
Raphael Golb, Defendant-Appellant.

Ronald L. Kuby, New York, for appellant.
Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., District Attorney, New York (Vincent
Rivellese of counsel), for respondent.

Judgment, Supreme Court, New York County (Carol Berkman, J.), rendered November 18, 2010, convicting defendant, after a jury trial, of identity theft in the second degree (2 counts), criminal impersonation in the second degree (14 counts), forgery in the third degree (10 counts), aggravated harassment in the second degree (3 counts), and unauthorized use of a computer, and sentencing him to an aggregate term of six months, unanimously modified, on the law and facts, to the extent of vacating the identity theft conviction under the first count of the indictment and dismissing that count, and otherwise affirmed. The matter is remitted to Supreme Court, New York County, for further proceedings pursuant to CPL 460.50(5).

One of the two felony counts was vacated and dismissed, but the Appellate Division unanimously denied Golb’s appeal and reaffirmed the guilty verdict on the other 29 counts, including one felony.

The chart below (updated from the who-is-charles-gadda.com website) lists each charge, conviction, and appellate decision of the convicted felon Raphael Golb.

CHARGE
DATE
CHARGE
SUMMARY
VERDICT (Sept. 30, 2010)
APPEAL DECISION (Jan. 29, 2013)
1. 7/1/2008 – 12/31/2008 PL 190.79(3). Identity theft in the second degree
(E-CLASS FELONY) (1 of 2 counts)
Assumed identity of Lawrence Schiffman and committed/attempted to commit felony of Scheme to Defraud 1st Degree.
GUILTY
Vacated and Dismissed
2. 7/1/2008 – 12/31/2008 PL 190.79(3). Identity theft in the second degree
(E-CLASS FELONY) (2 of 2 counts)
Assumed identity of Lawrence Schiffman and committed/attempted to commit felony of Falsifying Business Records 1st Degree
GUILTY
UPHELD
3. 8/1/2008 – 12/31/2008 PL 240.30(l)(a) Aggravated harassment in the second degree
(1 of 3 counts)
Aggravated harassment of Dr. Lawrence Schiffman
GUILTY
UPHELD
4. 8/3/2008 PL 190.25(1) Criminal impersonation in the second degree
(1 of 14 counts)
Created larry.schiffman@gmail.com email account
GUILTY
UPHELD
5. 8/4/2008 PL 190.25(1) Criminal impersonation in the second degree
(2 of 14 counts)
Sent email from larry.schiffrnan@gmail.com to Dr. Schiffman’s students
GUILTY
UPHELD
6. 8/4/2008 PL 170.05. Forgery in the third degree
(1 of 10 counts)
Sent email from larry.schiffrnan@gmail.com to Dr. Schiffman’s students
GUILTY
UPHELD
7. 8/5/2008 PL 190.25(1) Criminal impersonation in the second degree
(3 of 14 counts)
Sent email from larry.schiffman@gmail.com to multiple NYU email addresses
GUILTY
UPHELD
8. 8/5/2008 PL 170.05. Forgery in the third degree
(2 of 10 counts)
Sent email from larry.schiffman@gmail.com to multiple NYU email addresses
GUILTY
UPHELD
9. 8/5/2008 PL 190.25(1) Criminal impersonation in the second degree
(4 of 14 counts)
Sent email from larry.schiffman@gmail.com to NYU Dean Stimpson
GUILTY
UPHELD
10. 8/5/2008 PL 170.05. Forgery in the third degree
(3 of 10 counts)
Sent email from larry.schiffman@gmail.com to NYU Dean Stimpson
GUILTY
UPHELD
11. 8/5/2008 PL 190.25(1) Criminal impersonation in the second degree
(5 of 14 counts)
Sent email from larry.schiffman@gmail.com to NYU provost
GUILTY
UPHELD
12. 8/5/2008 PL 170.05. Forgery in the third degree
(4 of 10 counts)
Sent email from larry.schiffman@gmail.com to NYU provost
GUILTY
UPHELD
13. 8/6/2008 PL 190.25(1) Criminal impersonation in the second degree
(6 of 14 counts)
Sent email from larry.schiffman@gmail.com to NYUNews.com, forwarding email from Provost office.
GUILTY
UPHELD
14. 8/6/2008 PL 170.05. Forgery in the third degree
(5 of 10 counts)
Sent email from larry.schiffman@gmail.com to NYUNews.com, forwarding email from Provost office.
GUILTY
UPHELD
15. 11/22/2008 PL 190.25(1) Criminal impersonation in the second degree
(7 of 14 counts)
Created email account seidel.jonathan@gmail.com
GUILTY
UPHELD
16. 11/22/2008 PL 190.25(1) Criminal impersonation in the second degree
(8 of 14 counts)
Sent email from seidel.jonathan@gmail.com to Royal Ontario Museum (ROM)
GUILTY
UPHELD
17. 11/22/2008 PL 170.05. Forgery in the third degree
(6 of 10 counts)
Sent email from seidel.jonathan@gmail.com to Royal Ontario Museum (ROM)
GUILTY
UPHELD
18. 11/24/2008 PL 190.25(1) Criminal impersonation in the second degree
(9 of 14 counts)
Sent email from seidel.jonathan@gmail.com to Risa Kohn (ROM’s curator for Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit)
GUILTY
UPHELD
19. 11/24/2008 PL 170.05. Forgery in the third degree
(7 of 10 counts)
Sent email from seidel.jonathan@gmail.com to Risa Kohn (ROM’s curator for Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit)
GUILTY
UPHELD
20. 11/24/2008 PL 190.25(1) Criminal impersonation in the second degree
(10 of 14 counts)
Sent email from seidel.jonathan@gmail.com regarding Norman Golb
GUILTY
UPHELD
21. 11/24/2008 PL 170.05. Forgery in the third degree
(8 of 10 counts)
Sent email from seidel.jonathan@gmail.com regarding Norman Golb
GUILTY
UPHELD
22. 12/6/2008 PL 190.25(1) Criminal impersonation in the second degree
(11 of 14 counts)
Sent email from seidel.jonathan@gmail.com regarding Stephen Goranson internet post
GUILTY
UPHELD
23. 12/6/2008 PL 170.05. Forgery in the third degree
(9 of 10 counts)
Sent email from seidel.jonathan@gmail.com regarding Stephen Goranson internet post
GUILTY
UPHELD
24. 7/1/2008 – 12/31/2008 PL240.30(l)(a) Aggravated harassment in the second degree
(2 of 3 counts)
Aggravated Harassment of Stephen Goranson
GUILTY
UPHELD
25. 8/7/2008 PL 190.25(1) Criminal impersonation in the second degree
(12 of 14 counts)
Created email account steve.goranson@gmail.com
GUILTY
UPHELD
26. 7/20/2008 PL 190.25(1) Criminal impersonation in the second degree
(13 of 14 counts)
Created email account frank.cross2@gmail.com
GUILTY
UPHELD
27. 7/20/2008 PL 190.25(1) Criminal impersonation in the second degree
(14 of 14 counts)
Sent email from frank.cross2@gmail.com regarding Bart Ehrman and the Jewish Museum
GUILTY
UPHELD
28. 7/20/2008 PL 170.05. Forgery in the third degree
(10 of 10 counts)
Sent email from frank.cross2@gmail.com regarding Bart Ehrman and the Jewish Museum
GUILTY
UPHELD
29. 6/1/2007 – 3/1/2009 PL 240.30(l)(a) Aggravated harassment in the second degree
(3 of 3 counts)
Aggravated harassment of Robert Cargill
GUILTY
UPHELD
30. 7/1/2008 – 3/1/2009 PL 156.05 Unauthorized use of a Computer
(1 count)
Unauthorized use of NYU computers to commit criminal offenses and otherwise in violation of NYU computer use policy
GUILTY
UPHELD

The rest of the appellate court’s decision reads as follows:

Defendant’s convictions arise out of his use of emails to impersonate actual persons. Nothing in this prosecution, or in the court’s jury charge, violated defendant’s First Amendment or other constitutional rights.

Defendant is the son of an expert on the Dead Sea Scrolls. Defendant set up email accounts in which he pretended to be other scholars who disagreed with defendant’s father’s opinion on the origin of the Scrolls. Among other things, defendant sent emails in which one of his father’s rivals purportedly admitted to acts of plagiarism.

Defendant’s principal defense was that these emails were only intended to be satiric hoaxes or pranks. However, as it has been observed in the context of trademark law, “[a] parody must convey two simultaneous – and contradictory – messages: that it is the original, but also that it is not the original and is instead a parody” (Cliffs Notes, Inc. v Bantam Doubleday Dell Pub. Group, Inc., 886 F2d 490, 494 [2d Cir 1989]). Here, the evidence clearly established that defendant never intended any kind of parody. Instead, he only intended to convey the first message to the readers of the emails, that is, that the purported authors were the actual authors. It was equally clear that defendant intended that the recipients’ reliance on this deception would cause harm to the purported authors and benefits to defendant or his father.

The court’s charge, which incorporated many of defendant’s requests, fully protected his constitutional rights, and the court was not required to grant defendant’s requests for additional instructions. The court carefully informed the jury that academic discussion, parody, satire and the use of pseudonyms were protected by the First Amendment.

The court also ensured that the jury understood the terms “fraud” and “defraud” by [*2]expanding their definition and advised the jury that “without the intent to deceive or defraud as to the source of the speech with the intent to reap a benefit from that deceit, there is no crime.” The court was under no obligation to limit the definitions of “injure” or “defraud” – terms used in the forgery and criminal impersonation statutes – to tangible harms such as financial harm (see People v Kase, 76 AD2d 532, 537-538 [1st Dept 1980], affd 53 NY2d 989 [1981]). The court also properly employed the statutory definition of “benefit” as “any gain or advantage” to defendant or to another person (Penal Law § 10.00[17]).

Defendant argues that it is constitutionally impermissible to include an intent to influence a constitutionally-protected academic debate within the concept of fraud, injury or benefit, that allowing injury to reputation to satisfy the injury element would effectively revive the long-abandoned offense of criminal libel, and that, in any event, the alleged truth of the content of the emails should have been permitted as a defense. However, the evidence established that defendant intended harm that fell within the plain meaning of the term “injure,” and that was not protected by the First Amendment, including damage to the careers and livelihoods of the scholars he impersonated. Defendant also intended to create specific benefits for his father’s career. The fact that the underlying dispute between defendant and his father’s rivals was a constitutionally-protected debate does not provide any First Amendment protection for acts that were otherwise unlawful.

Defendant was not prosecuted for the content of any of the emails, but only for giving the false impression that his victims were the actual authors of the emails. The First Amendment protects the right to criticize another person, but it does not permit anyone to give an intentionally false impression that the source of the message is that other person (see SMJ Group, Inc. v 417 Lafayette Restaurant LLC, 439 F Supp 2d 281 (SD NY 2006]).

We have considered and rejected defendant’s remaining arguments concerning the court’s charge. We similarly reject his claims that the statutes under which he was convicted were unconstitutionally vague or overbroad. None of these statutes was vague or overbroad on its face or as applied (see People v Shack, 86 NY2d 529, 538 [1995]; Broadrick v Oklahoma, 413 US 601, 611-616 [1973]). The People were required to prove that defendant had the specific fraudulent intent to deceive email recipients about his identity, and to obtain benefits or cause injuries as a result of the recipients’ reliance on that deception. The statutes criminalized the act of impersonation and its unlawful intent, not the content of speech falsely imputed to the victims.

The verdict was based on legally sufficient evidence and was not against the weight of the evidence, with the exception of the identity theft conviction under the first count. The theory of that count was that in the commission of identity theft in the second degree (Penal Law § 190.79[3]), defendant attempted to commit the felony of scheme to defraud in the first degree [*3](Penal Law § 190.65[1][b]). However, there was no evidence that defendant intended to defraud one or more persons of property in excess of $1,000 or that he attempted to do so (see id.). The People’s assertions in this regard rest on speculation.

THIS CONSTITUTES THE DECISION AND ORDER
OF THE SUPREME COURT, APPELLATE DIVISION, FIRST DEPARTMENT.

ENTERED: JANUARY 29, 2013

CLERK

(emphases mine)

If Dr. Golb stays true to form, he will almost certainly appeal this again, perhaps in some other jurisdiction. If nothing else, this case has demonstrated that certain people have tremendous difficulty putting down the shovel after digging themselves into a hole.

Still, I am pleased with the court’s decision. While the wheels of justice turn slowly, and afford the guilty every possible avenue of defense, the process has demonstrated that it works in the end.

The “Will of God” and the Fallen Idol

What do you get when you mix magic, idolatry, and religious fundamentalism? The irony that the same crucifix that you believe “cured your wife of cancer” has now crushed and caused the loss of your leg.

I feel bad for poor David Jimenez, who first had to endure the ordeals of his wife’s ovarian cancer, and has now lost his leg. I really do. And this is a pretty standard liability/injury lawsuit involving an accident and an insurance company.

But it is interesting how many people who attribute healing to prayer to crucifixes and the “will of God”, so quickly abandon this theological position when bad things happen. When good things happen, many devoted religious fundamentalists attribute the good they experience to the “power of God” and “God’s will” brought about through the power of prayer. BUT, when something bad happens, it is no longer the “will of God” (unless you’re a Republican running for senate), but is a civil liability claim against the church because of shoddy construction.

So when you need a miracle, you pray to God, but if God doesn’t deliver a blessing, you sue him.

Such is the state of religious fundamentalism in America today.

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