AURORA | U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Aurora, waded into the wild and tangled saga surrounding embattled Aurora Public Schools Board of Education director Eric Nelson Tuesday, Aug. 2, urging U.S. Attorney John Walsh to investigate whether Nelson had violated federal law.
In his letter, Coffman formally requested the prosecutor’s office look into Nelson’s claimed military credentials to determine if the APS board member had violated provisions of the Stolen Valor Act of 2013, a federal law intended to punish anyone who misrepresents receipt of military decorations. Coffman co-sponsored the bill when it was passed into law more than three years ago.
Members of the United States Air Force Reserves confirmed that there were problems with Nelson’s military credentials in a recently released private investigation into Nelson’s past. The report, which was solicited by APS earlier this summer, detailed several issues with the order of Nelson’s ribbons, shoulder clusters and multiple advanced decorations that Nelson could not have received during his brief stint with the Air Force.
“It appears he was only an enlistee in the Air Force for several weeks,” according to the report.
In a widely circulated photo, Nelson is seen wearing the following decorations in the following order: an Air Force Commendation Medal, an Air Force Organizational Excellence Award, a Defense Superior Service Medal, an Air Force Recognition Ribbon, an Air Force Overseas Ribbon – Short Tour, an Air Medal, a National Defense Service Medal, a Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon, a USAF Basic Military Training Honor Graduate Ribbon, and an Air Force Training Ribbon.
People found guilty of violating the Stolen Valor Act may face fines or up to a year in prison, according to the summary of the bill. Anyone who falsely claims to be a recipient of any of the following medals could be found in violation of the law: a Congressional Medal of Honor, a distinguished-service cross, a Navy cross, and Air Force cross, a silver star, a Purple Heart, a Combat Infantryman’s Badge, a Combat Action Badge, a Combat Medical Badge, a Combat Action Ribbon, a Combat Action Medal or any replacement or duplicate medal.
Brent Spahn, a retired Colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps and transportation director for APS, first took issue with Nelson’s medals and decorations during the public comment portion of an APS board meeting in June. Spahn, who is also a graduate of the esteemed U.S. Naval War College, was skeptical that Nelson had earned many of the decorations he is seen wearing in the previously referenced photo.
“His ribbons are totally out of order … He’s wearing at least two ribbons that are medals that I would be shocked if he is authorized to wear those,” Spahn said. “I typically only see (the medals) on general officers and admirals — flag officers. Never in my 27 years in the Marine Corps have I seen a Major wearing a defense superior service medal.”
Nelson’s military flubs are only a portion of the many falsifications outlined and confirmed in the APS investigation, which was conducted by Denver-based private investigator Rick Johnson. Seedy allegations concerning Nelson’s credentials have followed the sullied board director since an initial report in The Colorado Statesman was published in June.
The APS Board of Education is slated to discuss the report on Nelson’s résumé at a regular board meeting Aug. 2.