Michael Patrick McManus in 2002 was convicted on federal charges for impersonating an Army major and a U.S. air marshal aboard an American Airlines flight after 9/11 and served time in a prison camp. Now he’s facing four charges of once again engaging in his favorite hobby, having worn an “Army brigadier general’s uniform and an outrageous array of medals and distinguished service crosses” to the election celebration party of lesbian Houston Mayor Annise Parker.
McManus, who is gay, says he was only making a political statement at Parker’s 2009 victory party and wasn’t attempting to impersonate a war hero, which is a crime (see below). The uniform, he claims in court papers, was a way of protesting his own discharge under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. (Though perhaps he should’ve checked his medals: Next to the Distinguished Service Cross, Flying Cross, Silver Star and Bronze Star, there was a British Commander of the British Empire medallion.)
Interestingly, McManus did earn some decorations on his own. The 44-year-old served as a private first class and was recognized for expert marksmanship and serving overseas before leaving the Army in 1987 under “honorable conditions.” It’s worth noting plenty have called bullshit on his discharge story, which name drops Gen. Colin Powell.
Already on the radar of military bloggers — like Don Burleson, who calls McManus a “homosexual douchebag” and who, like many others railing against war hero impostors, posted this “Wanted” sign on his site — McManus was caught this time by a former Marine who noticed McManus’ uniform at Annise Parker’s party wasn’t worn properly, and snapped some pictures.
Then McManus posted his own photos on Facebook — and it wasn’t long before other shots of him parading around in full dress were found, like the time he went to HRC’s Equality Ball and filed a CNN iReport about it in February 2009.
McManus could face even more serious charges than his 2002 escapade, thanks to President George W. Bush in 2005 signing the Stolen Valor Act, which expands the definition of unauthorized use (existing law at the time applied only to the Medal Of Honor) and increases penalties (prison sentence of up to one year).
To military veterans, such laws protect the honor with which they serve the country; to First Amendment absolutists, it’s a gross violation of constitutionally protected speech.
So should a gay veteran have the right to parade around wearing medals he didn’t earn to, as he claims, protest his DADT discharge? Or do those service medals belong only to heroes who earn them, effectively making certain objects off limits to the First Amendment?
We’ll soon find out: McManus was arrested in February and goes to trial in December.
Below, a ABC 13 Houston news report from February about McManus’ controversy: