Yet Another State Is Pushing To Bring Back Special Courts For Veterans

Transition
Daniel Kind stands before Judge Robert Russell during the Veterans Court session in Buffalo, N.Y. on June 3, 2008. Russell is the evenhanded quarterback of a courtroom team of veterans advocates and volunteers determined to make this brush with the criminal justice system these veterans' las
Associated Press/Don Heupel

Veterans accused of crimes often share similar trauma from their time in the service.


Post-traumatic stress disorder. Military sexual assault. Brain injuries.

Special courts are gaining traction nationwide to help these veterans avoid being repeatedly arrested by combining treatment with accountability.

That’s why Benton Country, Washington, prosecutor Andy Miller and a team of court officials and veterans advocates plan to ask county commissioners to tap a public safety fund to recreate Spokane County’s Veterans Treatment Court in Benton and possibly Franklin counties.

The courts — which take up nonviolent misdemeanor cases — work like other treatment-based courts used in Benton and Franklin counties by focusing on specific types of offenders with common issues.

The approach could help military veterans avoid losing their families and jobs if they’re charged. The Benton County jail already handles about 40 veterans a week, and the U.S. Veterans Administration reports about 3,000 homeless veterans in the Mid-Columbia.

Advocates say they build community among veterans and help them tackle issues unique among those who have served.

Related: 9 Questions With A Veteran Treatment Court Judge »

Eric Andrews, a civil deputy in Miller’s office, says the special courts are needed and they work. He’s an 11-year Navy veteran who previously worked in the Spokane program.

In that model, current and former military service personnel charged with crimes such as drunk driving, domestic violence, and petty theft are eligible to have their cases diverted to the veterans court.

The court can require defendants to participate in veteran-oriented treatment programs and comply with other orders. Cases would be heard by District Court Judge Dan Kathren.

However, it would focus on the root causes of veteran crime, such as PTSD, sexual assault, brain injuries and other issues.

Spokane marries its judicial system with a unique nonprofit called the Spokane Veterans Forum. The forum is a community of veterans that provides mentors and friendship to veterans charged with crimes.

Related: How A Different Kind Of Criminal Court Saved This Marine Veteran »

The Benton County model will include a similar approach. Franklin County Prosecutor Shawn Sant and Pasco city prosecutor Jim Bell have participated in the work sessions, signaling possible interest on the north side of the Columbia River.

Miller wants to tap the $14 million to $16 million Benton County has banked thanks to a 2014 voter-approved public safety sales tax intended to support law enforcement, courts, and crime-fighting initiatives.

The 0.3 percent sales tax supports 35 law enforcement officers, mental and drug courts, and other activities.

But it’s not being fully spent.

The county commission is soliciting proposals from county agencies with a public safety focus and, separately, from outside nonprofits that run gang and crime prevention programs.

April 20 is the application deadline for nonprofits.

Money won’t be available until 2019.

Treating veterans with respect while requiring treatment works, said Jerry Gutman, who oversees mentor programs in Spokane. The recidivism rate for veterans court defendants fell to between 12 percent and 14 percent in the past three years.

“What is making this happen is veteran-to-veteran connections,” he said.

Andrews said it’s common to see defendants from Spokane’s court return as mentors and to give back to the community, much the way they served their country.

“You just see what an impact this has on people’s lives, to make them whole again,” Andrews said. “I can’t think of a better way to repay a service member for what our country has asked us to do.”

———

©2018 Tri-City Herald (Kennewick, Wash.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

A Marine wanted for killing his mother's boyfriend reportedly escaped police by hiding inside an RV they'd spent hours searching before towing it to a parking lot, where he escaped under the cover of darkness.

It wasn't until more than two weeks later authorities finally caught up to Michael Brown at his mom's home, which was the scene of the crime.

Brown stuffed himself into a tight spot in his camper during an hours-long search of the vehicle on Nov. 10, according to NBC affiliate WSLS in Virginia. A day earlier, cops said Brown fatally shot his mother's boyfriend, Rodney Brown. The AWOL Marine remained on the lam until Nov. 27, where he was finally apprehended without incident.

Read More Show Less

No motive is yet known for last week's Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard shooting tragedy, which appears to have been a random act of violence in which the sailor who fatally shot two civilian workers and himself did not know them and did not plan his actions ahead of time, shipyard commander Capt. Greg Burton said in an "All Hands" message sent out Friday.

Machinist's Mate Auxiliary Fireman Gabriel Antonio Romero of San Antonio, an armed watch-stander on the attack submarine USS Columbia, shot three civilian workers Dec. 4 and then turned a gun on himself while the sub rested in dry dock 2 for a major overhaul, the Navy said.

"The investigation continues, but there is currently no known motive and no information to indicate the sailor knew any of the victims," Burton said.

Read More Show Less
A projectile is fired during North Korea's missile tests in this undated picture released by North Korea's Central News Agency (KCNA) on November 28, 2019. (KCNA via Reuters)

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea said it had successfully conducted another test at a satellite launch site, the latest in a string of developments aimed at "restraining and overpowering the nuclear threat of the U.S.", state news agency KCNA reported on Saturday.

The test was conducted on Friday at the Sohae satellite launch site, KCNA said, citing a spokesman for North Korea's Academy of Defence Science, without specifying what sort of testing occurred.

Read More Show Less

Since the Washington Post first published the "Afghanistan papers," I have been reminded of a scene from "Apocalypse Now Redux" in which Army Col. Walter Kurtz reads to the soldier assigned to kill him two Time magazine articles showing how the American people had been lied to about Vietnam by both the Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon administrations.

In one of the articles, a British counterinsurgency expert tells Nixon that "things felt much better and smelled much better" during his visit to Vietnam.

"How do they smell to you, soldier?" Kurtz asks.

Read More Show Less
Erik Prince arrives for the New York Young Republican Club Gala at The Yale Club of New York City in Manhattan in New York City, New York, U.S., November 7, 2019. (REUTERS/Jeenah Moon)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Erik Prince, the controversial private security executive and prominent supporter of U.S. President Donald Trump, made a secret visit to Venezuela last month and met Vice President Delcy Rodriguez, one of socialist leader Nicolas Maduro's closest and most outspoken allies, according to five sources familiar with the matter.

Read More Show Less