Convictions Reversed in Dead Sea Scroll Harassment Case

A 1993 photograph of the Psalms scroll, one of the Dead Sea scrolls, with Hebrew transcription.
(Courthouse News via Library of Congress)

MANHATTAN (CN)  – A lawyer whose passion for the Dead Sea Scrolls begat online harassment won the reversal Thursday of most of his criminal convictions.

The Dead Sea Scrolls were found in this cave in Qumran in the West Bank. (Courthouse News via Effi Schweizer, Wikipedia)

Though not a scrolls scholar himself, Raphael Golb has a family connection to the protracted academic debate that erupted after a team of Bedouin shepherds and archaeologists discovered the ancient documents half a century ago in a group of caves near Jerusalem. 

Most academics credit the scrolls to a Jewish sect called the Essenes, but Golb’s father, University of Chicago professor Norman Golb, has advanced the theory that many disparate authors produced the scrolls and hid them in caves when Roman armies attacked Jerusalem in 70 A.D.

In 2010, the younger Golb was convicted in New York of using online aliases to harass and discredit his father’s scholarly opponents.

Though a state jury found Golb guilty of 30 counts, the New York Court of Appeals later vacated his convictions on identity theft, criminal impersonation, aggravated harassment and unauthorized use of a computer.

View of the Dead Sea from a Cave at Qumran (Courthouse News via Library of Congress, Eric Matson)

Golb sought federal habeas relief over the remaining convictions, but U.S. District Judge Katherine Polk Failla agreed to drop only two counts for criminal impersonation, leaving 17 convictions in place.

The Second Circuit took the relief a step farther Thursday, finding that the use of an overbroad version of the statute requires reversal of half of Golb’s 10 forgery convictions.

As for the remaining criminal-impersonation convictions, the court reversed Golb’s conviction to another two.

The three-judge panel consisted of U.S. Circuit Judges Dennis Jacobs, Pierre Leval and Reena Raggi.

Golb’s attorneys Ronald Kuby and Joel Rudin did not immediately respond to request for comment.

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