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Thursday 8 December 2022
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Controversy Continues Over Bruce Conner’s Criminal Impersonation Charges

Syracuse resident Bruce Conner is facing criminal charges for sending a “bogus” letter to the editor to Syracuse.com without permission from two of the five ministers listed as authors.

Conner’s attorney, Scott Porter, argues that prosecutors will be setting a dangerous precedent if they pursue legal action against the 66-year-old man. Porter contends that prosecutors have “stretched the legal meaning of criminal impersonation,” which could result in a “dangerous and unjustifiable” attack on freedom of speech.

Porter aims to have the case dismissed altogether, condemning it as flawed on constitutional grounds. Furthermore, the defense attorney claims that “This case lacks a victim.”

The letter to the editor, which Conner emailed in December, criticized COR Development for seeking tax breaks from the county without making efforts to hire local workers. Of the five ministers listed as authors of the letter, two had not given prior authorization.

However, all five of the ministers expressed sentiments consistent with the letter in the past, and four out of the five have said that they do not want to see Conner prosecuted. The fifth minister has not yet commented on the case.

As for the victim, prosecutors list COR as the victimized party. This would make the case the first in New York State history in which the injury consists of harm to a corporation’s reputation. Porter responded to this notion, saying that under New York law, “a corporation … cannot be the victim of reputational loss.”

Ultimately, Porter is arguing that the criminal impersonation law is being applied to his client in a way that is entirely vague and far too broad in scope. He says that a conviction would allow “for law enforcement, under the guise of protecting another’s reputation, to pursue their personal predilections, regardless (of) whether the impersonated persons complained to law enforcement and regardless of the truth or falsity of the underlying speech.”

A recent survey revealed that 10,000 people in the United States may be wrongfully convicted of crimes each year. If Conner is convicted of criminal impersonation, Porter argues that not only would this be a wrongful conviction, but it would also set a precedent that could impede on the First Amendment rights of New Yorkers from here on out.

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