On August 23, Cascade County District Judge Greg Pinski ordered Ryan Patrick Morris, 28, and Troy Allan Nelson, 33, to have additional terms tacked onto their previous parole guidelines. This comes after Morris and Nelson lied about having served in the US military in order to have their cases moved to a veterans court for a possible lesser sentencing.
In 2016, Morris told the court that he was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan a total of seven times, had a hip replacement as a result of an improvised explosive device and was diagnosed with PTSD. All of these lies came about in response to him being accused of stealing an estimated $1,500 worth of items from his landlord.
Nelson stood accused of forgery and elder abuse in 2018 after spending his neighbor’s money. He was able to make it to veterans court, but was eventually outed by officials.
Both men will have to handwrite the names of the 6,756 US service members killed in Iraq and Afghanistan and also transcribe the obituaries of the 40 of those service members who were from Montana. Pinski also ordered a total of 441 hours of community service be completed - one hour for each Montana service member who has died in combat since the Korean War.
“I want to make sure that my message is received loud and clear by these two defendants,” Pinski said Friday, reported the Military Times. "You've not respected the veterans. You've not respected the court. And you haven't respected yourselves."
Morris and Nelson will also have to apologize to national veterans groups American Legion, AMVETS, the Disabled American Veterans, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Vietnam Veterans of America.
Even once they are on probation, the two men will be required to travel to the Montana Veterans Memorial on Veterans Day and Memorial Day and wear placards that read: "I am a liar. I am not a veteran. I stole valor. I have dishonored all veterans.”
According to the Associated Press, attorneys for both Morris and Nelson took issue with the sign. Attorney Mark Frisbie, Morris’ lawyer, argued that his client had not been charged under the Stolen Valor Act of 2013, which criminalizes lies about military service that result in property, money or other tangible benefits. Such a charge would have been classed as a felony.
“While acts of stolen valor are very, very important,” Frisbie said on Friday, according to the Great Falls Tribune, “they are not the basis of this revocation.”
The outlet also noted that both men issued apologies for their false claims to the court and expressed regret for impersonating US military officials.