October 12th, 2009
07:58 PM ET

Erica’s News Note: Oct. 12

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/CRIME/10/12/fake.veteran/art.veteran.imposter.cnn.jpg caption="Richard Strandlof says he didn't mean to cause harm when he lied about being a military veteran."]

Erica Hill | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

It’s been a while, dear blog readers… but I’m still kicking around the 7th floor offices. While more desks may be empty than usual, our rundown isn’t showing signs of Columbus Day.

And since I’m not assigned to a story today, I thought I’d hop back on the blog with a “news Note”; thanks for indulging me.

Sadly, every day provides ample opportunity for disappointment and outrage when you skim the headlines. But sometimes, there is a silver lining in those stories – today’s can be found in a long overdue arrest.

Richard Strandlof’s name may not be familiar, but his story is difficult to forget. Earlier this year, he admitted to Anderson – on the air – that he had lied about surviving the September 11th attacks. Lied about surviving a roadside bomb while serving in Iraq. Lied about the injuries he sustained in that fictitious blast. And he used those lies to make a name for himself, founding the “Colorado Veterans Alliance” and campaigning for politicians, all the while touting his 9/11 and battle field scars.

He even lied about his name.

On Friday, the FBI arrested Strandolf – aka Rick Duncan – on the charge of “stolen valor” and held him for “false claims about receipt of military decorations or medals.”

The first step, perhaps, toward some justice.


A Delaware first grader was so excited about becoming a Cub Scout, he wanted to bring some of his new camping knowledge to school with him. He took his snazzy new fork/knife/spoon camping tool to school, with plans to use it at lunch. Instead, he’s been suspended and is now facing 45 days in reform school, according to the New York Times. This was the first story I read in the paper this morning – who could ignore those tidbits? His family has started a website, complete with an online petition, to plead this 6-year-old’s case.

The school tells the paper it has a strict “zero tolerance” policy when it comes to weapons in schools…understandable, but it also makes one wonder if maybe a case-by-case basis isn’t such a bad thing.


Let’s end this on a positive note, shall we? Amidst all the stories of higher fees for everything from checked bags to pretzels, a silver lining for air travel: lower ticket prices. No, your eyes are not playing tricks on you. One airline ticket research site says you could see holiday airfare as much as 15 percent below 2008 prices. But you may want to book your tickets sooner rather than later, since we all know prices seem to change with no rhyme or reason not only from one day to the next, but one minute to the next. Good luck, bargain hunters!

Filed under: Erica Hill • Erica's News Note
soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. gina

    LOVE your reports/commentary/reparte with Anderson (and even catch you occasionally on Saturday AM).
    Don't know how you and Anderson put in the hours you do...I get tired just thinking about how much y'all work!

    October 12, 2009 at 9:29 pm |
  2. Cherisa

    So glad to see you back on the blog!

    October 12, 2009 at 8:20 pm |
  3. Lori

    Erica, I will never forget the look on Anderson's face (and especially his eyes)during his interview with Richard Strandlof earlier this year. Please don't replay it. Once was more than enough.

    School has really changed in the last 40 years.

    I wonder what the cost of travel to Italy is?

    Give us more of that dramatic squirrel.

    October 12, 2009 at 7:41 pm |
  4. Jennifer NC

    Welcome back to the blog Erica! Keep the posts coming. Zachary's story definitely shows a need for policy change in Delaware (and I'm saying this as an elementary school teacher). I totally understand the school needs to have policies about knives etc. in place but really what is happening to Zachary is ridiculous. I totally agree with you about looking at things on a case by case basis. I hope change in that direction ends up being a silver lining on the cloud that is hanging over Zachary's family now.

    October 12, 2009 at 6:45 pm |
  5. Kim

    Oh no ! This little first grader needs to be cut a break and the reaction per the administration is off the top. Hopefully,a review of circumstances and intentions will be discussed ? You'd think and the punishment sounds extreme. Then again,no knives at school is policy and parents are informed and so are the students. Sign of the times and it all connects to teen violence. We just saw the Chicago coverage and it's a national concern. He's little and didn't know but excited about camping and being a Cub Scout. 45 days in reform school ? Had this little guy had behavorial issues prior to of concern ?

    October 12, 2009 at 6:32 pm |
  6. Terri from Atlanta

    I remember when Richard Strandlof was interviewed on AC360, and it struck me that he was lacking in remorse for the harm he had done.
    He seemed to be looking more for ways to excuse his behavior.

    As for the Cub Scout, I agree that the punishment absolutely does not fit the "crime". All of us Girl Scouts had one of those too, and I can easily
    see how a kid could take one to school....I don't blame the parents for
    speaking out...this needs to be changed.

    October 12, 2009 at 6:29 pm |
  7. alex lyrics

    Well what can i say? his parents should have been more aware ae made his claime to famend done something to prevent him from taking it to school.

    As for the fake vet, well h

    October 12, 2009 at 6:16 pm |
  8. Annie Kate

    Stolen valor? First time I've heard of that but sounds appropriate in this case. I would have thought they would charge him with fraud as well and if he did any of his "work" via the US Post Office there are charges there that can be brought to bear. I'm glad they are bringing him to account. I don't see how he carried it off for so long – since he was stupid enough to admit to the lies to Anderson on the air.

    October 12, 2009 at 6:11 pm |