Vets react to man who fraudulently obtained Purple Heart tags
The Associated Press
TOPEKA, Kan. — Sentencing has been scheduled for next month for a 27-year-old Topeka man who pleaded guilty to fraudulently obtaining a Purple Heart license tag for his car.
Timothy Allen DeBusk, who wasn't wounded while serving as a Marine in Iraq, entered the guilty plea Friday in Shawnee County Court while 20 veterans watched.
When the veterans, some wearing overseas caps and uniforms of the veterans' groups they represented, saw DeBusk approaching the courthouse Friday, they formed a line, became silent and eyed him as he entered.
The Purple Heart is awarded to those in the military who are wounded or killed in battle. A veteran can get the Purple Heart license tag by showing proof of his or her wounding, including discharge records, a newspaper clipping or a certificate issued by the Department of Defense.
DeBusk originally was to appear at a preliminary hearing in the case. District Judge Nancy Parrish and assistant district attorney Kim Knoll were surprised when defense attorney Don Hoffman said his client intended to plead.
DeBusk pleaded guilty to dealing in false identification documents and making false information. The felony convictions each have a potential sentence of seven to nine months in prison. Sentencing was scheduled for Oct. 12.
After the hearing, DeBusk expressed remorse.
"I want to make things right by my community, my family and my God," he said. "I want my conscience clear."
Knoll said DeBusk used a certificate showing he had received the Purple Heart and showed his discharge papers to officials at the Shawnee County Treasurer's Office to get the Purple Heart tag in October 2005.
The certificate was forged, Knoll said. DeBusk surrendered the tag on Feb. 1, 2007, after he learned he was being investigated by the military, Knoll said.
As they waited for DeBusk to arrive, several veterans talked about the case.
"We are here in support of all veterans who earned the Purple Heart honestly, especially who gave their lives earning it," said Topekan Harvey Harris, state commandant for the Marine Corps League.
The Marine Corps League is seeking to flush out the "phonies" and "wannabes," Harris said. Jefferson Lawson, of Topeka, said the three core values of the Marine Corps are courage, honor and commitment.
"He stained all three," Lawson said.
Information from: The Topeka Capital-Journal,
Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.