Tragic end of a sock puppet

A sock puppet goes to jail.

A lawyer was sentenced Thursday to six months in jail after being convicted of an ultramodern crime that was all about antiquity: using online aliases to harass people in an academic debate about the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Oh gosh, who would use online aliases to harass people in an academic debate? I never heard of such a thing.

Prosecutors said Golb crossed the line between discourse and crime by using fake e-mail accounts and writing blog posts under assumed names to discredit detractors of his father, a scholar. Golb said the writings amounted to pointed parody and academic whistle-blowing that he felt were protected by free-speech rights.

Oh yes? There’s a free speech right to use assumed names to discredit people?

Well, the jury didn’t think so, at any rate.

Schiffman [a scholar at NYU] went to authorities after some of his students and colleagues received e-mails from an address that used his name. The e-mails appeared to have him admitting that he plagiarized Norman Golb’s work and asking the recipients to keep quiet about it. Schiffman denies copying the historian’s work.

Raphael Golb, a literature scholar and real estate lawyer with a Harvard Ph.D. and an NYU law degree, acknowledged during his trial that he wrote the messages. But he said he never intended for anyone to believe Schiffman actually sent them and portrayed them as “satire, irony, parody.”


I shouldn’t laugh. But I am anyway.

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