GREAT FALLS — Two Montana men who lied about their military service in court have appealed some conditions of their sentences.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Montana called the conditions degrading and unconstitutional.
Montana Eighth District Court Judge Greg Pinski sentenced Ryan Patrick Morris and Troy Allan Nelson in Aug. 2019 to prison for unrelated violations of their release conditions. Morris received 10 years in prison for violating the terms of his probation for felony burglary, while Nelson got five years for a drug possession conviction.
But Pinski ruled that in order for both to be eligible for parole, both men would have to write by hand the names of all 6,756 Americans killed in Iraq and Afghanistan; write out the obituaries of the 40 Montana residents killed in the two wars and send hand-written letters of apology to several veterans groups identifying themselves as having lied about their military service to receive help and possibly a lesser sentence through a Veterans Court.
Once paroled, both men were ordered by the judge to serve 441 hours of community service, an hour for each of the Montana residents that have been killed in combat since the Korean War, the Great Falls Tribune reported.
Pinski also mandated that every year during the three-year suspended sentences both men received, they must stand at the Montana Veterans Memorial for eight hours on each Memorial and Veterans Day wearing a sign that reads, "I am a liar. I am not a veteran. I stole valor. I have dishonored all veterans."
The ACLU argued that those aspects of Pinski's rulings were not reasonably helpful in rehabilitating the men and were meant to publicly shame and dehumanize them.
Neither of the men was officially charged with stolen valor.
"To be sure, Morris and Nelson lied and tried to cheat," the ACLU's brief said. "But our constitution does not condone judicially sanctioned punishments that strip them of their human dignity, even if their behavior was potentially offensive."
Morris had claimed in 2016 he did seven combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, had PTSD and had his hip replaced after he was wounded by an IED. Nelson successfully enrolled himself into the Veterans Treatment Court before officials determined he had not actually served in the military.