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Phony Soldier Charged With Making Up Claims of Atrocities in Iraq

A man who tried to position himself as a leader of the anti-war movement by claiming to have participated in war crimes while serving in Iraq is facing federal charges of falsifying his record.

Jesse Adam Macbeth, 23, formerly of Phoenix, garnered attention on blogs and in some alternative media after he began claiming in 2005 to have been awarded a Purple Heart for his service, which he said included slaughtering innocents in a Fallujah mosque. His story was contradicted by his discharge form, showing that he was kicked out of the Army after six weeks at Fort Benning, Ga., in 2003 because of his “entry level performance and conduct.”

A complaint unsealed Friday in U.S. District Court in Seattle charged him with one count of using or possessing a forged or altered military discharge certificate, and one count of making false statements in seeking benefits from the Veterans Administration.

Macbeth’s public defender, Jay Stansell, declined to comment.

Organizations that opposed the war, including Iraq Veterans Against the War, posted videos or statements containing Macbeth’s claims on their Web sites. In one videotaped interview, a skinny, stuttering Macbeth, dressed in a camouflage jacket, described slaughtering hundreds of people in a mosque: “We would burn their bodies ... hang their bodies from the rafters in the mosque,” he said.

Iraq Veterans Against the War and other organizations removed the claims after learning they were false.

“He approached us in early 2006, posing as a war veteran. He seemed very emotionally distressed about his experiences,” said Amadee Braxton, a spokeswoman for Iraq Veterans Against the War, based in Philadelphia.

Macbeth claimed in an application for benefits to have served from May 2001 to June 2004, to have been shot in Iraq and to have suffered post-traumatic stress disorder, LaMont E. Stokes, an agent with the VA’s Office of the Inspector General, wrote in the charging papers. He also collected more than $10,400 in benefits to which he was not entitled, Stokes wrote.

Stokes said he interviewed Macbeth in a Tacoma jail, where he has been serving a sentence for fourth-degree assault, and that Macbeth admitted falsifying the documents because he was homeless and wanted to “sucker” anything he could out of the government.