Daniel Lee Marshall Jr. didn’t just masquerade as an Army Ranger by wearing ribbons or rank he didn’t earn, or by driving around in a pickup truck with a Purple Heart license plate he did not deserve.
He embedded himself within the inner circle of ex-Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, the storied war hero from Texas portrayed in the book and movie “Lone Survivor.”
Now, Marshall wears the orange uniform of an inmate, charged in federal court in Houston with being a felon in possession of a firearm.
When Marshall, 45, was arrested Wednesday by agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, they allegedly found more weapons in his home, as well as an Army uniform with a Ranger patch on the shoulder.
In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Stolen Valor Act, a 2005 law that made it illegal for people to wear military medals they had not earned or to lie about having been awarded such medals. Still authorities on Thursday publicly revealed for the first time Marshall’s past and connections to Luttrell to show he could not be trusted enough to be released on bail.
“He represents himself as a Special Forces operator,” Assistant U.S. Attorney John Jocher said. He held up photos taken from the Internet which showed Marshall in uniform, as well as other images.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Nancy Johnson ordered he remain in custody and shared her thoughts on the fake veteran scheme.
“It is despicable but not a crime,” she said from the bench.
Marshall first got close to Luttrell’s family back in 2005 when the sailor was temporarily missing as the only survivor among a group of SEALs in Afghanistan who were overwhelmed by a far larger number of Taliban fighters.
Marshall’s friendship with Luttrell soured in 2010 when Marshall was accused of taking a pistol from Luttrell’s Texas ranch.
At about the same time, a group of real Rangers, who knew Luttrell and were at a Houston-area gala marking the anniversary of Luttrell’s ordeal smoked out Marshall as a fake, and his felonious past came to light.
ATF Agent Christopher Wilhite testified Thursday about his dealings with Marshall in which he had at least twice obtained several military-style guns despite laws that prohibit him from buying them.
Marshall has had several run-ins with the law, including arrests for forgery and credit card fraud.
Federal public defender Natalia Cornelio sought to show that Marshall has never harmed anyone, that it has been more than a decade since he had previously been convicted of a crime.
A man who briefly huddled with Cornelio outside the courtroom, and who said he has known Marshall for 25 years, said he was a good guy who got caught up in trying to help Luttrell’s family.
“He made some mistakes, but he is still a good man,” said the friend, who did not want to be named. “He goes way out of the way to help people.”
He said that Marshall did serve in the military, but he was not sure when, where or in what capacity.