As part of their sentences, two men in Montana have been court ordered to stand outside the Memorial Veterans Memorial on Memorial Day, wearing placards that read: “I am a liar. I am not a veteran. I stole valor. I have dishonored all veterans.”
As USA Today reports, Morris was originally charged in April 2017 in a burglary case, involving the theft of $1,500 worth of items from his landlord’s garage. According to the Associated Press, Ryan Patrick Morris, 28, was initially sentenced to 10 years in prison for violating probation after a felony burglary, lied about his military service and demanded his trial be held in a veterans court, falsely claiming he was injured by an IED on one of seven combat tours. Troy Allan Nelson, 33, was sentenced to five years for drug possession and also enrolled in a veterans court.
Neither of the men have ever served in the U.S. military.
Once the truth was revealed, Cascade County District Judge Greg Pinski applied further requirement so their sentences, asserting their their lies were “abhorrent to the men and women who have actually served our country,” reported the Great Falls Tribune. “You’ve not respected the veterans. You’ve not respected the court. And you haven’t respected yourselves.”
Pinski told the men to rewrite the names of all 6,756 Americans killed in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the obituaries of the 40 Montana soldiers in that group before they may be eligible for parole. Morris’ first chance at parole comes in 7 years, Nelson’s in 3. If the men have not completed the assignment by then, they will be forced to serve the entirety of their sentences behind bars.
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According to county attorney Joshua Racki, both men are also required to fulfill 441 hours of community service, one for each Montanan killed in combat since the Korean War. They must also hand-write apologies to the American Legion, AMVETS, the Disabled American Veterans, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Vietnam Veterans of America, admitting they lied about military service.
Morris and Nelson apologized to the court for lying about their service in an attempt to avoid jail time by moving their trials to a veterans court.
“I’d like to offer my deepest apology to any veterans out there that I’ve disrespected,” Morris told Pinski in 2016.
Veterans courts consider the effects of service-related issues like post-traumatic stress or traumatic brain injury when handing down sentences, often in the form of treatment rather than jail time.
Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.