The Right to Lie (and Lie Again)
Xavier Alvarez, the Pomona (CA) water board member who is facing additional charges for claims he won the Congressional Medal of Honor and served in the Marine Corps. Alvarez never served a day in the military. Alvarez made the claim at a water board meeting and in remarks to a local police group (photo courtesy of M-M-M-My Pomona).
Yesterday, we introduced you to Xavier Alvarez, the Pomona, California water board member who ran afoul of the law, by claiming that he was a retired Marine who won the Medal of Honor in 1987.
Apparently, Mr. Alavarez didn't know--or didn't care--that the 2005 Stolen Valor Act criminalizes false claims about military service and decorations. Turns out that Alvarez never spent a day in the military and never received the Medal of Honor, except in his over-active imagination.
Still, that didn't keep Mr. Alvarez from boasting about a "25-year career" as a member of the Marine Corps and a Medal of Honor recipient. He made the boast at a meeting of a local water board last summer. Someone caught the claim on tape. Alvarez eventually pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge under the 2005 law.
Unwilling to let the matter rest, Alvarez and his court-appointed attorney recently filed a motion, asking that the charge against him be dropped. As we noted yesterday, Mr. Alvarez's lawyer hit on a rather novel excuse for throwing out his conviction. According to his counsel, Alvarez had the right to lie, claiming that falsehoods are not outside the First Amendment, and "restrictions on false statements must be supported by a strong government interest and must be directly related to that interest." The motion also claims that the Stolen Valor Act is unconstitutional.
The U.S. attorney prosecuting the case disagrees, noting that the government has an "undeniable interest in protecting from dilution the significance of the nation's highest military distinction and the magnitude of the accomplishment of those who actually earned it."
A hearing on the matter was scheduled for Tuesday, but it has been delayed. According Whittier Daily News staff writer Will Bingham (who appears to be the only MSM reporter actively following the story), federal prosecutors now plan to file more charges against Alvarez, after discovering a second recording of him making the Medal of Honor claim.
Alvarez made the newly discovered medal claim while he was a candidate for mayor in Pomona's January 2006 special election, said Craig H. Missakian, assistant U.S. attorney.
Alvarez's claim was recorded during a meeting with the Pomona Police Officers Association, where he was seeking the organization's endorsement, Missakian said.
The additional medal charge would double Alvarez's maximum sentence to two years in prison and $200,000 in fines, Missakian said.
The hearing on Alvarez's motion to dismiss has been postponed until January 22nd. His trial date has been pushed back as well.
For more on Mr. Alvarez and his gift for fabrication, check out this October 27, 2007 post from the Claremont Insider, a blog which keeps an eye on local government in California's Inland Valley region. The Insider reports that Alvarez has a history of making false claims, and one of those lies resulted in a censure from his fellow water board members.
Alvarez was censured yesterday in a special meeting by the Three Valleys Municipal Water District, where he is Pomona's representative. As readers will recall, Alvarez is already facing a federal misdemeanor charge for falsely claiming that he is a Medal of Honor winner.
Alvarez has also made false claims that he served in the military in Vietnam and other exotic locales (he has admitted he was never in the military), that he is married to a starlet (he is not married), and that he graduated as an engineer from Cal Poly Pomona (there is no record of him having attended Cal Poly).
Bigham's article noted that Alvarez also obtained health benefits for his ex-wife, Juanita Diana Ruiz. The two have been divorced since 2002, but after he was elected in November, 2006, Alvarez listed Ruiz as his wife and Three Valleys paid $4,873.76 in benefits for Ruiz. The health benefits were what led to the board censuring Alvarez.Bigham reported that Alvarez has promised to repay the benefit money.
However, since the amount is over $500, Alvarez could be charged with a felony for misuse of public funds, according to Three Valley's president Bob Kuhn.It struck us that there might also be fraud and grand theft charges in there, and Three Valley's board member Dan Horan said as much, accusing Alvarez of fraud.
The Insider also notes that Alvarez won his water board seat with the help of Pomona's Democratic mayor, Norma Torres. The mayor happens to be a high-profile supporter of Barack Obama, and was dispatched to campaign for him in Iowa earlier this month. When Alvarez's MOH scandal broke last year, she described it as "unfortunate." (H/T to Publis at the Foothill Cities Blog).
Publis also found a lame explanation for the MOH claim, which Alvarez offered to the Los Angeles Times last fall:
He didn’t deny claiming to have received the Medal of Honor. People routinely say things at board meetings “just to entertain the public,” he said.
The federal charges are the work of his political opponents, Alvarez contends. When asked to specifically address the charges, his response was disjointed.
“There’s people who go up there and say, ‘Oh, I’m homosexual. And I belong to the homosexual community.’ I don’t say anything about that. . . . I’m a rookie at this. You get nervous.”
If the thought of "entertaining" people at the water board meeting makes Alvarez nervous, wait till he meets his new "audience" at The Big House.
ADDENDUM: A poster on the open thread at Balloon Juice (tongue firmly in cheek), accuses us of "Swift-Boating" Mr. Alvarez. Heh..heh...heh.
Also, the Modesto Bee has uncovered two more whoppers from Alvarez, which he shared with a fellow board member:
Fellow board member Dan Horan said Xavier Alvarez told him he saved a U.S. ambassador -- and the American flag -- while wounded by gunfire during a daring rooftop helicopter rescue in Lebanon.
Horan said he was puzzled when Alvarez, a board member elected in 2006, later changed his story to say it happened in Iran. And he was skeptical when his colleague also bragged of rescuing Marines pinned down by Viet Cong gunfire in Vietnam.
Mr. Horan had good reason to be skeptical. Alvarez is 49. At the time of that supposed rescue in Vietnam, he would have been a 17-year-old helicopter pilot. By comparison, former President George H.W. Bush is a piker; he didn't win his Navy pilot's wings until he was 19.