Is the son of a University of Chicago professor off to jail for impersonating Dead Sea Scroll scholars?
It is not often the Supreme Court of the United States is involved in a case concerning the Dead Sea Scrolls. And, it appears that will remain the case. On February 20, 2018, the Supreme Court of the United States chose not to hear the case of Raphael Golb, the son of University of Chicago professor Norman Golb.
Golb’s case is a long, sordid affair. This tale of a middle-aged (now disbarred) lawyer harassing and impersonating his father’s academic critics—assuming aliases to accuse them of plagiarism and misdeeds—and then getting caught, charged, and sentenced to time in prison is finally coming to a close.
Raphael Golb created false email accounts and blog posts, maligning numerous Dead Sea Scroll scholars. These scholars disagreed professionally with his father, Norman Golb, about the origins of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the nature of the community at Qumran just off the shores of the Dead Sea. Disputes of this kind are common in the academy, but Raphael’s actions in response to the divergent opinions are not. He even went so far as to impersonate specific scholars, including New York University’s Lawrence Schiffman. He sent fictitious confessionals in Schiffman’s name of having plagiarized Norman Golb’s work.
It did not take long for the truth to come out, and the digital trail led back to Norman Golb’s son, Raphael Golb, who was subsequently indicted. In 2010, he was found guilty of 30 counts of identity theft, forgery, and harassment. He was sentenced to six months in prison and five years of probation. He appealed.
The Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court heard his case in 2013 and upheld 29 of his 30 charges. After another appeal, his case went to the New York Court of Appeals in 2014. This court dropped 10 charges, but reaffirmed the remainder and resentenced him to two months in prison and three years of probation. In 2015, Golb filed a writ of habeas corpus in the district court, which resulted in two more charges being dropped.
Having been unsuccessful in overturning all of the convictions against him, he appealed once more—this time to the Supreme Court of the United States. Last week, the Supreme Court declined to hear Golb’s case. Barring some further creative appeal on Golb’s part, his eight-year appeal process appears to have come to an end.
Raphael Golb has effectively been hoist with his own petard. He sought to damage the careers of various scholars—by accusing them of false dealings—and promote his father’s scholarship. Instead, he was convicted of his own crimes, thereby irreparably destroying his own reputation and tarnishing his father’s lifework.
Visit the Scholar’s Study page on the Raphael Golb trial for coverage of the case.
Strata: “Scroll Scholar’s Son Indicted for Identity Theft to Support Father’s Views,” BAR, November/December 2009.
Strata: “Raphael Golb Convicted,” BAR, January/February 2011.
Strata: “Dead Sea Scroll Scholar’s Son Off to Jail,” BAR, May/June 2013.
Strata: “Is He Headed to Jail?” BAR, September/October 2014.
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