Supreme Court Decision Won't Stop Stolen Valor Supporters

PHOTO: Rev. Jim Moats, 59, of Newville Pa., admits to the Patriot-News that he lied about being a Navy SEAL during the Vietnam War.Jenny Kane/The Patriot-News
Rev. Jim Moats, 59, of Newville Pa., admits to the Patriot-News that he lied about being a Navy SEAL during the Vietnam War.

A Supreme Court decision today struck down legislation that makes it a crime to lie about winning military honors, but supporters of the law said they'll keep fighting to stop military fraudsters.

In a 6-3 judgment, the Supreme Court justices said that the Stolen Valor Act of 2006, which made it illegal to wear or claim to have won military ribbons or medals that were not earned, violated the First Amendment's free speech clause -- in essence, the right to lie.

The decision was a victory for California man Xavier Alvarez, who brought the case to the Supreme Court when he challenged the law after being convicted in 2007 for lying about winning the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military award.

"Lying is protected as a general principle," Alvarez's attorney, Jonathan Libby, told ABC News after today's decision. "We certainly don't disagree that what Mr. Alvarez said was wrong... [B]ut what the court said is the government does not get to decide what we can and cannot say."

In their judgments, the majority of the justices criticized the law for being too broad and not addressing those who benefit materially from their lies, which would be akin to fraud and have broad legal precedent.

As it is now, in addition to Alvarez the decision protects fakers like Angel Ocasio, who was confronted on camera for wearing Marine Corps ribbons he didn't earn, and Pennsylvania Rev. Jim Moats, who admitted to lying about earning a Navy SEAL trident.

Watch the full story with more tales of military fakers tonight on "World News With Diane Sawyer" at 6:30 p.m. EST

But supporters of the Stolen Valor Act, like Congressman Joe Heck (R.-Nevada) and Rep. Howard McKeon (R.-California), may have seen the justices' criticism coming. In May 2011, Heck, a veteran himself, introduced a new House bill co-sponsored by McKeon that would rewrite the Stolen Valor Act to target only those who "benefit from lying about their military service or record."

Doug Sterner, a veteran and private watchdog who tracks military fakers, told ABC News he puts his hope in the new version of the bill currently on the House floor.

"I've lost at things before. I pick myself up and I keep going because that's what we as soldiers -- and I'm an old soldier... We don't dwell on our losses, but we keep fighting to get a victory," Sterner said today. "We'll fix this bill. We'll get it reintroduced."

Don Shipley, a former Navy SEAL who has been given unique access to the SEAL roster to root out people who lie about serving in the elite unit, said the new version of the act makes more sense.

"You're never going to stop the barroom loudmouths, but there's a lot worse than that," he said, referring to those who use the claims to con people out of money or to make themselves look better to employers.

Along with the new bill, Shipley said he and a dedicated few that track down fakers will go about stopping them the way they always have: old fashioned public shaming.

"It really doesn't matter in the long run," he said. "We'll come back at them again and again."