According to the New York Post, a decision will be made by New York’s highest court in the Dead Sea Scrolls case today (March 25th). The court will decide whether or not to overturn the conviction. In the Dead Sea Scroll case, Raphael Golb argues that mocking scholars in an academic debate about the Scrolls was protected by the First Amendment
In the Scroll case, Raphael Golb, an attorney and writer, was convicted of identity theft, plus criminal impersonation, aggravated harassment, forgery and unauthorized use of a computer among other things according to The Guardian. Golb had masked his identity in email messages and in blog posts from 2006 until 2009, in an attempt to discredit detractors of his father. Golb’s father, a University of Chicago professor, disputes the Scrolls’ origins.
The Dead Sea Scrolls are more than 2,000-years-old documents that were discovered in the 1940s in what is now known as Israel. The Scrolls have the earliest known versions of parts of the Hebrew Bible.
New York University Judaic studies chairman, Lawrence Schiffman, and other scholars believe that the Dead Sea Scrolls texts were assembled by a sect known as the Essenes. Not all scholars believe that to be true, however. Chief among those who do not believe it is Norman Golb, Raphael Golb’s father. Norman Golb and others like him believe that the writings on the Dead Sea Scrolls were the work of a number of Jewish groups and communities, gathered from libraries in Jerusalem and hidden away in the caves near Qumran in order to protect them during a Roman invasion coming around.
The younger Golb’s lawyer, Donald Kuby, put forth the argument that the trial judge’s jury instructions failed to protect his client’s First Amendment rights, leading to Golb’s convictions. Kuby also added that online satire, criticism and blogging both anonymously and behind a pseudonym are fairly common.
A mid-level court threw one conviction out of the Dead sea Scrolls case, but affirmed 29 others. The court concluded that the harm intended towards the scholars could be described as injury and was therefore not protected by free speech.
Golb was convicted and sentenced to six months in jail and five years’ probation the meantime, while the decisions for the scrolls case are appealed, Golb is out on bail.
During the Court of Appeals, Manhattan prosecutors spoke of Golb sending emails under pseudonyms to museum administration. Eventually, Golbo impersonated his father’s critics online. Using a New York Universtiy computer account, he created an email account under Schiffman’s name in order to send alleged confessions by Schiffman of plagiarizing his father’s work.
Golb admitted to writing the messages during the Dead Sea Scrolls trial However, he claims that he hadn’t meant for anyone to actually believe that Schiffman had sent them. Golb, however, called the messages he sent, “satire, irony, parody.”
A ruling on the Dead Sea Scrolls case by the Court of Appeals is expected next month.