Riding on the Back of an Addict

Pre-war Bayer heroin bottle, originally contai...

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Recently we had local primary elections in my neck of the woods. One of the more heated contests involved the election for the Republican candidate for County Attorney. In my opinion, one of the candidates was supremely more qualified for the job, and I leaned-toward voting for him, but I also decided that I should fairly consider the other two candidates, their records, and their positions.

I began by reading the various local headlines concerning the election and eventually moved to the individual websites and web presences for the candidates. One made me sick.

On what appeared to be a local Republican website, the incumbent prosecutor listed several of her more noteworthy “victories” as a means of establishing her record of tough justice within our parish. One name popped-out at me, that of a former Soldier who was found guilty of robbery and sentenced to the mandatory minimum 10 years in prison. We’ll call him Ben.

Ben admitted to almost everyone who questioned him that he was an addict–heroin, cocaine, prescription meds, and just about any other addictive substance. Heroin had him by the throat, and, as it often does, refused to let go. His military commanders tried to help him, and they genuinely cared and tried to facilitate recovery. But, the addiction held steadfastly to Ben, and the initial attempts at rehab failed. While the military system facilitates recovery programs, they have little tolerance for failures. Unfortunately, heroin is one of those drugs that requires addicts to fail a few times before finally beginning the climb out of the hole.

His Commander reached a breaking point after another bout of misbehavior due to his addiction. She understood his problem, and she wanted to help him, but he left her with no choice. She sought punishment through Army courts.

Facing the stress of going to court, he binged. Short on cash, he concocted a half-baked plan to walk into various local businesses with a bag over his hand (to simulate the presence of a gun) and demand money. The money would then be used to continue the binge. He was caught, kicked out of the Army, and prosecuted by the local state courts (it should be noted that the state court handled the case largely because of their harsh mandatory minimum sentences, which the military justice system does not have).

Before I move to my gripe, one point should be absolutely clear. Ben never shirked responsibility for his crimes. When questioned by his command or investigators, he freely admitted his wrongdoing in a polite and respectful manner. He never utilized his 5th Amendment rights. There was no trickery, evasiveness, or deceit. He had fallen far down the rabbit hole, and he freely admitted it. In short, I’ve never met someone who so freely and willingly discussed their misdeeds. Universally, leaders and co-workers liked him, and they wanted to see him succeed. He served for 15 months in Iraq.

Now, I see him used as a feather in someone’s prosecutorial reelection cap. The suggestion that his 10 years should make the community proud of their elected official made me want to puke. He is an addict. He is a combat veteran. Putting him in jail should make us all sick to our stomachs. Anyone with half a heart would ask what they could do to help this man? How can we help him beat this disease that will kill him if it continues? How can we avoid putting another pathetic human being in the less-than-nurturing confines of the state penitentiary?

Did he screw up? Absolutely. Did he admit to it? Yep. Did he ever shirk responsibility? Nope. Is he some evil and diabolical criminal mind? Hell no.

I’m glad she is so proud of her prosecutorial masterpiece. It certainly is a doozy. Perhaps she can hang the newspaper clippings on her wall to remind herself of the wonderful job she did in protecting us from an up-and-coming Lex Luthor. She sure showed him. Congratulations.

The last time I saw him, he was in the county jail. I went to visit him. I didn’t figure anyone else would, and I was right. He was sweating and twitching badly. Withdrawal was not kind. Ultimately, neither was the prosecutor, but that’s OK, she needed to get reelected. Perhaps later he can brag about how her victory over him netted her 21% of the Republican vote. That’s quite an accomplishment, for her.

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