By Shayna Jacobs
MANHATTAN SUPREME COURT — A cyber-bully convicted of stealing the identities of several Dead Sea Scrolls scholars was sentenced Thursday to six months in jail but is expected to be released Friday due to an appeals court ruling.
Raphael Golb, 50, was found guilty in September on more than 30 counts of identity theft, forgery, aggravated harassment and other charges. He used the identities to damage the names and reputations of rivals of his father, who is a respected scholar on the ancient Hebrew texts.
Although he was handcuffed and led away at his Manhattan Supreme Court sentencing Thursday morning, his lawyers said an appeals judge ruled Thursday afternoon that Golb can remain free on $25,000 bail pending his appeal, which could take years.
Golb was at Rikers Island Thursday evening and was expected to remain there until Friday after his family wires the bail money, his lawyer Ron Kuby said.
At his sentencing Thursday, Golb claimed his impersonation efforts, which involved creating dozens of e-mail accounts and occurred between July and December 2008, were not criminal but akin to a pranks "commonly engaged in" by entertainers.
"Before this case, I did not know that satirical hoaxes of the sort were treated as crimes in the United States of America, but as this court said, ignorance of the law is not an excuse," added Golb, who has several advanced degrees.
Golb had claimed at trial that his goal was to expose a purported plagiarism claim against NYU Prof. Lawrence Schiffman, an academic rival of his father, Norman.
Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Carol Berkman ordered Golb to stay away from the experts he victimized and barred him from ever using an alias online again.
He is only allowed to author online posts under his own name or "anonymous," Berkman ruled.
In sentencing him to jail plus five years probation, Berkman said the punishment was meant to "send a clear message" that his behavior deserved consequences.
Lawyers for Golb said are appealing the verdict. They said the charges against him deprived Golb of his Freedom of Speech rights.
Prosecutors only succeeded "in making the Internet safe for elite scholars to avoid being criticized," Kuby said.