Accused Dead Sea Scrolls identity thief rejects plea deal, plans trial
By LAURA ITALIANO
Plea negotiations broke down this morning for accused Dead Sea Scrolls cyber-bully Raphael Golb — who now says he’s taking his wacky identity theft and impersonation case to trial.
Golb, 49, is charged with trying to boost his historian father’s scholarship on the 2,000 year old scrolls by going online in the name of rival scholars — notably Dr. Lawrence Schiffman of New York University — to discredit their work.
Plea negotiations before Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Carol Berkman fell apart today when prosecutors insisted that any deal include probation — a deal breaker for Golb, said his lawyer, Ronald Kuby.
“The so-called victims here are sufficiently erratic that they will run to the DA’s office on the drop of an adverb on a blog,” Kuby quipped.
“I don’t want to spend the next three years litigating which criticism on a blog constitutes a violation of probation,” the lawyer said.
Golb, meanwhile, said he’s been spending his time working on a book on the history of religious problems in France, “Going back to the 18th Century,” he explained.
Has he forsaken the scrolls?
“I continue to be interested in the topic,” he said, mysteriously, to which Kuby snapped — “Just keep your hand away from the curser!”
Golb has argued that creating Internet personas — called “sock- puppeting” — along with parodies and impersonations are all part of the great free-wheeling salon that is the Internet. He calls the prosecution of such net-play a criminalization of free speech.
But prosecutors say Golb caused real damage to the reputations of his professor father’s academic adversaries in stealing their identities.
“This was no innocent little spoof,” said Schiffman in a telephone interview today. Golb had allegedly gone online posing as Schiffman — sending out emails to as many as 400 academic colleagues in a single day in which he purportedly “confessed” to being a plagiarist.
NYU took the bogus “confession” seriously enough to mount an investigation, Schiffman said.
“If I had been found guilty, I would have lost my job, my tenure, my reputation and my livelihood,” Schiffman said. “You can call it a game all you want,” he added, “but that doesn’t mean anything. Russian Roulette is a game too.”
Trial has been set for Sept. 13.
HT: J. LAUER