Circuit Judge Dennis Jacobs


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Petitioner appealed the denial of habeas relief for state court convictions for criminal impersonation and forgery after he wrote emails impersonating historical scholars to discredit them and champion petitioner’s father’s position in an academic debate. Petitioner filed this habeas proceeding and the district court granted him relief from two of his convictions but denied relief for the other seventeen. On appeal, petitioner argued that his remaining convictions should have been vacated because the jury may have relied upon literal terms of an overbroad impersonation statute and that the impersonation and forgery statutes were unconstitutional as violative of his First Amendment rights. The court agreed that the impersonation statute was overbroad but vacated only four of the convictions, finding the remaining five reliably supported by the evidence under a narrower reading of the statute. The court further rejected petitioner’s constitutional challenge to the impersonation statute but agreed that the forgery statute was facially unconstitutional. After narrowing the statute to a constitutionally permissible scope, the court vacated some of petitioner’s forgery convictions but not others where the evidence supported conviction under the narrower scope.