A former East Bay resident who wore bogus military medals to a Martinez high school reunion was sentenced in federal court in Riverside today to one year of probation and a $250 fine. Steven Burton, 39, of Palm Springs, who never served in the military, pleaded guilty in December to a misdemeanor charge of wearing unauthorized military service medals.He was sentenced to probation and the fine by U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips in Riverside today, according to Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles. Burton, who was raised in Martinez, is a graduate of Alhambra High School in the city.The investigation was triggered when Burton wore a U.S. Marine Corps uniform and phony medals including the Purple Heart, the Navy Cross and the Bronze Star to his 20th high school reunion in October 2008.A classmate who is a genuine Navy commander became suspicious, took a photograph and asked the FBI to look into the situation, according to an FBI affidavit filed in the case.Burton admitted in a written plea agreement that “he wanted to impress his high school classmates” and wore the regalia for the entire event, while knowing that his claims of military service were false.He also admitted to wearing up to 15 fake medals and decorations on two earlier occasions in Southern California.Burton was accused of violating the federal Stolen Valor Act, which was passed by Congress in 2005 and signed by President George W. Bush in 2006. The 2006 measure expanded a previous law that applied only to unauthorized wearing of the Medal of Honor. The law now applies to the bogus wearing of any service medal. The Navy Cross is the highest valor award given by the Navy to members of the Navy or Marine Corps. It is second only to the Medal of Honor, which can be given to members of any service.The misdemeanor carried a possible maximum sentence of one year in jail.Burton’s partner of 18 years, Air Force veteran Barry Barnes, said in a letter to the court that Burton has been depressed since being charged in November and is on medical leave from his job with a bank. The letter asked for leniency for Burton, saying he is a “good person with a great heart” who has already been severely punished by media coverage of the case.
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