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Veteran reaches deal with court

Will enter treatment after plea

York

An Army veteran who has languished in Adams County Jail for nearly four months was expected to be released Monday to a special court that helps treat ex-soldiers for PTSD.

By late that afternoon, though, he was still in jail and questioning why.

“They made a promise, and they broke it,” said 25-year-old Justin York of Adams County prosecutors.

York awoke Monday with a felony count of resisting arrest hanging over his head.

The charge stemmed from an encounter with police in his own home in December, during which York pulled out a handgun from his back pocket to show a pair of officers that it was not loaded.

The officers, who were called to the home after York and his mother argued, took possession of the handgun.

They reported that at some point after they did so, York turned toward them in a violent manner.

York was given a Taser shot by at least one of the officers and, even though the handgun was in police possession, he was charged with resisting law enforcement with a weapon.

Instead of the felony charge he initially faced, York pleaded guilty to an amended misdemeanor count of resisting arrest Monday. He did so as part of a negotiation hashed out with prosecutors.

The agreement with prosecutors went like this:

In exchange for his guilty plea, prosecutors would allow York to enter the Delaware County Veterans Treatment Court.

That court, created in 2011, is a problem-solving court that provides substance abuse and mental health treatment to those who have served in the military and have post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injuries.

If York completed a program within the court, the misdemeanor count he pleaded guilty to would be wiped away, according to court testimony. The initial felony count would be dismissed as well.

His entrance into the court, though, comes with a few caveats.

York will have to serve probation for 18 months or serve probation during his entire stay in the Delaware County court, whichever ends up being longer, according to court testimony. That means he cannot own firearms, drink or take any non-prescription drugs.

Also, if he fails to complete or is kicked out of the Delaware County court, he can be sentenced to jail time or fines for pleading guilty to the misdemeanor.

He can also be prosecuted for the initial felony count he was charged with.

That count carries an advisory sentence of one and a half years in prison and a maximum sentence of three years, according to Indiana state law.

During his court hearing Monday, York’s public defense attorney and Adams County Deputy Prosecutor Tracy Heltz Noetzel both said the Delaware County court had verbally accepted the veteran into the program.

But Heltz Noetzel said in court that she needed written documentation from Delaware County about the acceptance, which York said caught him by surprise.

According to York, he thought he would be either released to the Delaware County court immediately or taken to a VA hospital for evaluation.

As the day went on, no transfer took place. And then he was brought one of the jail’s dinner trays.

“I’m probably going to spend another night in jail, even though I signed the agreement today,” said an angry York during a telephone call to The Journal Gazette.

jeffwiehe@jg.net

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