A Palm Springs man was sentenced to a year of probation 15 MAR and ordered to undergo mental health counseling for impersonating a Marine and wearing medals he never earned. Steven Douglas Burton violated a federal statute that prohibits the unauthorized display of military medals. The 39-year-old defendant pleaded guilty to the federal misdemeanor charge 14 DEC as part of a plea deal with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips also ordered Burton to pay a $250 fine and barred him from owning any military uniforms, insignia or award. Burton told Phillips when he entered his plea that he was seeing a doctor and receiving treatment, though he did not specify for what. He also said he was taking antidepressants. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Burton showed up for his 20-year class reunion at Alhambra High School in Martinez, Calif., in OCT 08 wearing a Marine Corps dress uniform studded with medals, including the Navy Cross, the second-highest combat commendation behind the Medal of Honor. Burton wore a lieutenant colonel’s insignia and told people he had spent a career in the service, according to the FBI.
One of Burton’s classmates, a Navy commander, was suspicious and snapped a photograph of Burton, which shows him wearing 14 medals, including a Navy Cross, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Legion of Merit badge and Combat Action ribbon. The commander made an official inquiry regarding Burton’s service and discovered he had never been in the Corps or any other branch of the Armed Forces, according to the FBI. In the ensuing investigation, federal agents learned the defendant had an Internet blog on which he “bragged” about overseas tours of duty that involved combat in Afghanistan and Iraq. The first documented case of Burton wearing a military uniform with decorations was during a 2007 Halloween party in Cathedral City, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. A few months later, he posted a photo of himself online showing him standing on a beach on Coronado Island wearing a Marine Corps uniform, complete with medals and stripes indicating the rank of master gunnery sergeant. “The defendant chose the rank of … gunnery sergeant because it is a well-respected rank within the USMC,” court documents state. The documents indicate Burton purchased most of his decorations on eBay and at military surplus stores, including one outside the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center at Twentynine Palms, Calif. [Source: MarineCorpsTimes The Desert Sun article 16 Mar 2010