In Dallas Veterans Court, Desert Storm Soldier Gets His Promised Second Chance Today

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Photo by Mark Graham
Judge Mike Snipes
Back in October, Sam wrote for the paper version of Unfair Park a lengthy piece about Dallas County's relatively new veterans court, which gives second chances to soldiers who come home from war -- some damaged in some way, many broke, most alone -- and turn to drugs or lives of petty crime. Among those who appeared in the piece was 47-year-old Tim Carmack, a veteran of Operation Desert Storm/Desert Shield who was honorably discharged from the Navy in the early 1990s and returned home, only to became a homeless heroin addict arrested by Dallas Police and indicted by the Dallas County District Attorney's Office for heroin possession.

But, as Sam wrote, Judge Mike Snipes, himself an Iraq War vet who presides over one of the state's first such veterans courts, had a good feeling about Carmack. He gave the first-timer a chance, telling Carmack he'd have his record expunged if he got through six months' worth of rehab. And today ("on the 67th Anniversary of D-Day," per the statement), the Dallas County District Attorney's Office sends word that Carmack has indeed cleaned up and straightened out to become just the third graduate of the program.

"Simply put, it is smart on crime to have this veterans court to address the specific issues that we see over and over again with the men and women who have proudly served our great nation, particularly those who have been in combat," says Craig Watkins. "Thanks to the counseling and rehabilitative services provided through the Veterans Court program, Mr. Carmack has a second chance at life."

The whole announcement follows.
Timothy Carmack becomes third Veterans Court graduate on the 67th Anniversary of "D-Day"

Today, the 67th anniversary of the Allied Invasion of Normandy known as "D-Day", Dallas County Veterans Court Judge Michael Snipes approved the dismissal of a felony possession of a controlled substance charge against Timothy Carmack following his successful completion of drug rehabilitation at the VA clinic in Bonham, Texas. Carmack is the third Veterans Court graduate, following an Air Force veteran and Army veteran.

Carmack, a veteran of Operation Desert Storm/Desert Shield was honorably discharged from the United States Navy in the early 1990s. Since then, he became addicted to heroin and homeless. While Carmack was living on the streets of Dallas, he was arrested and indicted for possession of heroin. Carmack requested enrollment in Veterans Court shortly after the specialized court was created in 2010.

"Simply put, it is smart on crime to have this Veterans Court to address the specific issues that we see over and over again with the men and women who have proudly served our great nation, particularly those who have been in combat," said Craig Watkins, Dallas County District Attorney. "Thanks to the counseling and rehabilitative services provided through the Veterans Court program, Mr. Carmack has a second chance at life."

In Dallas County, honorably discharged veterans charged with first-time felony offenses that would normally result in a recommendation for probation can apply for Veterans Court. If, after being assessed by a mental health specialist, the veteran is found to have a mental disorder -- like drug addiction or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) -- that caused or influenced the person to commit a felony, he or she might be eligible for Veterans Court.

Veterans Court participants attend court weekly to inform the judge and their peers about the progress they have made in returning stability to their lives. Depending on their diagnoses, they are treated for drug addiction, PTSD, traumatic brain injury, clinical depression, or a host of other issues that they suffer from, at least in part, as a result of their honorable combat service.

Each participant is also assigned a mentor who is also a veteran. The mentors help participants by serving as a sounding board and by recreating the "buddy teams" that bind military personnel in combat. Veterans' service groups, individual veterans and others also volunteer time and resources in order to ensure that veterans of our armed forces in Dallas County receive the help and support they deserve following their honorable military service. Many members of the Veterans Court team of prosecutors, community supervision officers, mentors, and defense attorneys are also combat veterans, including Judge Snipes and the prosecutor, Craig McNeil.

The treatment and supervision of the Veterans Court participants are monitored by the court, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the Dallas County Community Supervision Office and ultimately, by the Dallas County District Attorney's Office. In accordance with state law, the District Attorney's Office must agree with all recommended dismissal of charges.

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Steve Sanson
Steve Sanson

For Immediate Release Steve Sanson President of Veterans In Politics International 702 283 8088US Marine “Desert Storm” War Veteran  Juan Rivera Member of Veterans In Politics International 702 767 9048US Marine “Iraqi Freedom” War Veteran  Veterans Court endorsed by Veterans In Politics International “Military Veterans are trained to be extremely aggressive, especially those that have served in combat” Las Vegas Nevada In 2009 former Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley sponsored  Assembly Bill (AB) 187 this bill is to address the needs for our veterans within the judicial system. AB 187 is to provide treatment to the veteran instead of incarceration when a veteran is charged with a nonviolent crime while they make that adjustment to civilian life. AB 187 mirrors the veteran court in Buffalo New York; the court shall identify the defendant if they are a veteran of the United States military, place the veteran in a treatment program and after successful completion of the program seal the veteran’s court records. Our government has trained our military to survive in combat and to defeat the enemy at all cost.  Our government has trained our military to never surrender.  The members of our military that served in combat had to make life and death decisions, they have seen hell on earth.  It is hard for civilians to wrap their minds around the idea that just because a veteran has not lost a limb or received a purple heart that does not mean they do not have something psychologically wrong with them.   Sometimes our veteran’s bandage these memories with drugs, alcohol, as well as other reckless behaviors.  A large portion of our Marines and Soldiers have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD.  During the early years of combat PTSD was called Soldiers Hawk, Combat Fatigue, or the Vietnam Syndrome.  Our nation’s government needs to take a stand when it comes to our military veterans. A veteran’s court needs to be established in every State, County, and City across our nation.   We need to take care of our soldiers properly.  The Veterans In Politics understands that our state is suffering from a budget deficit and a specialty court such as this may cost additional funding.  The President of Veterans In Politics sent a mass e-mail contacting every judge, district attorney, commissioner, and city council within the state of Nevada in an effort to give them another choice to establish a system to provide a similar treatment for our veterans.   The following e-mail was sent:  Veterans In Politics writes to request that the Court offer alternative sentencing to veterans and members of the military alternative in appropriate criminal cases.  We reference you to the attached NRS 176A.280 et. seq., "Establishment of program for treatment of veterans and members of the military, assignment of defendant to program; progress reports."  While we acknowledge that the establishment of a Veterans Court is discretionary and funding is unlikely at this time, we believe that we can achieve the same result of helping veterans and members of the military whose legal troubles are linked to service-related alcohol, drug or mental health issues without incurring the costs of establishing a specialty court and still keep nonviolent offenders out of jail.       Specifically, we request that you withhold adjudication or order a submittal on the record where a veteran or member of the military "appears to suffer mental illness, alcohol or drug abuse or post traumatic stress disorder, any of which appear to be related to military service...."  NRS 176A.285 (2) (b). We request that instead of sentencing the offender to pay a fine, perform community service, a suspended sentence or jail time, that you order he or she to attend counseling through the (VA) Veterans Administration.  We are working with the VA to expand their treatment program for this purpose and request a joint meeting to discuss the programs that currently exist as well as additional programs that can be implemented.  Only if the offender fails to successfully complete the VA treatment program will he or she be given the traditional sentencing.     We seek this solution because our veterans and members of the military need our assistance.  Three out of four veterans are homeless in Clark County, the highest rate in the United States.  Veterans and members of the military often are unable to return to civilian life because of their combat experience or even because of the disciplined culture of the military.  The current traditional sentencing sets veterans and military members up for failure because they can neither affords the private counseling services nor successfully completes community service.  As a consequence, the courts, eventually, have had no option but to impose jail time upon the failure to fully complete the traditional sentencing requirements.  As such, we offer this proposal to assist the Courts in alleviating the burden that veterans and members of the military impose on our criminal justice system as well as in the hope of rehabilitating our veteran and military members to rejoin society as responsible citizens.  Veterans In Politics looks forward to working with you to develop and implement an acceptable alternative treatment program for members of the military and veterans at no cost to the Court or the County.     For additional information contact:http://www.veteransinpolitics....   

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

I really like this program.  All the best to Mr. Carmack!

Darrd2010
Darrd2010

Congratulations to this veteran and congratulations to the Dallas County Court for having this program and getting this into the media. Hooray for all!

Brenda Marks
Brenda Marks

Congratulations and best wishes to Mr. Carmack.  Just shows you the system can work with the right tools and motivated individuals.

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