NEWS

  /  

February 16, 2010

E-mails in Scrolls case may implicate prof

This article has been reformatted from its original print version.

Prosecutors trying a University of Chicago professor’s son, who allegedly cyber-bullied multiple academics who disagreed with his father, released documents to a New York court last month that could implicate the professor in the crime.

Raphael Golb, 49, faces 51 criminal charges of identity theft, criminal impersonation, harassment, and unauthorized use of computers. He is the son of Oriental Institute Professor Norman Golb.

Raphael allegedly targeted and harassed intellectuals who disputed his father’s theory that the Dead Sea Scrolls originate in Jerusalem, rather than in Qumran, where the Scrolls were found. He allegedly harassed scholars by disseminating false accusations about them in public blogs and through e-mails to their friends and colleagues. The prosecution wrote that this allegation is supported by e-mails to other members of the family, including Dr. Golb, in a January 19 pre-trial motion.

The court documents allege Raphael sent e-mails to his brother and mother from alias accounts, including one dated July 24, 2008, that says, “By the way, if Dad has some comment on the latest Charles Gadda [an alleged alias of Raphael’s] exchange, he can send it through your e-mail, that way there would be no trace of it in his account.”

Neither Dr. Golb, his wife, nor his son Joel has been charged with a crime.

Dr. Golb is not quoted in any of the released e-mails. “There is e-mail correspondence between Raphael Golb’s alias accounts and Dr. Golb; however, it never overtly acknowledges a partnership,” District Attorney John Bandler wrote in the motion. “However, Raphael Golb’s alias accounts have forwarded to Dr. Norman Golb e-mail exchanges that the alias account (or another alias account) had with third parties.”

Dr. Golb wrote in a statement Friday that the evidence does not prove his involvement, and, in a brief interview Friday, Dr. Golb suggested Cargill had taken issue with a sour turn in a scholarly debate, leading to the court case. “As the consequence of a long-standing academic dispute, a campaign of personal attacks is now being waged against me and my family. Claimed ‘evidence’ is being grossly distorted for unworthy purposes and removed from context,” Dr. Golb wrote in the statement.

“It is perfectly normal for any academic family to express indignation in the case of its members being silenced, excluded, and misrepresented or, to all appearances, plagiarized. In the present case, fair-minded people with knowledge of the circumstances will quite readily come to understand who the victims and the victimizers are.”

Some, including alleged victim Dr. Robert Cargill, believe that Dr. Golb and his family were engaged in a conspiracy. Cargill, who called renewed an order of protection against Raphael on January 27, wrote in a blog post the next day, “The smear campaign was a Golb family affair!” He said the alleged crimes are examples of academic rivalry gone too far.

“A little professional jealousy can be a powerful motivator for scholars, encouraging them to focus on their work and produce new and better scholarship. However, when this jealousy, greed, or malice reaches a point where an individual is furtively, yet tenaciously and ubiquitously attempting to smear another scholar to the extent that Raphael Golb and perhaps members of his family are alleged to have done, it runs the danger of crossing into civilly actionable and even criminally actionable activity,” Cargill said in an e-mail interview.

Defense lawyers Ronald Kuby, Lea Spiess, and David Breitbart wrote in a January 26 memo that the e-mails are protected speech under the First Amendment. “The prosecution seems unable or unwilling to realize that the First Amendment protects the right of persons to criticize, attack, and campaign against the character, writings, and purported scholarship of others, even in strong, bitter language.”