Khalat Alama pleaded guilty to conspiracy to bribe a federal official and bribery of a federal official. An additional 30 months was tacked onto his prison term.


Before his client was sentenced, Daniel Goggin gambled on a legal long shot: He requested that the court reassign Perkins' case to a so-called veterans treatment court, hoping that Judge Reagan might apply to the federal level a trend that in recent years has gained significant traction at the state level.

Many veterans who suffer from combat-related mental illness land in the legal system as first offenders. The vet-court concept is analogous to drug court, offering defendants a second chance by reducing prison terms or bypassing convictions altogether if the accused agrees to participate in individualized, VA-run treatment programs and check in regularly with the court. The setup is doubly attractive to politicians, in that it provides positive press fodder and saves taxpayers money.

Associate Judge Robert Russell of Buffalo, New York, opened the first such court in 2008 after seeing veterans who came through his drug court interact positively with one another. In the three years beginning in 2009, the number of vet courts in the U.S. swelled from 4 to 92, according to the National Association of Drug Court Professionals, a nonprofit agency based in Alexandria, Virginia.

The movement has been slow to gain a foothold at the federal level, but that tide has begun to turn.

"The idea is starting to percolate," says Magistrate Judge Paul M. Warner of the District of Utah, who instituted the nation's first federal vet court in 2010. Warner spent six years in the navy before joining the Army National Guard's Judge Advocate General's Corps, retiring as a colonel. He says he relies on district judges to refer appropriate cases to him.

"The defendants respect that I'm an army colonel a lot more than the fact I'm wearing a black robe," he says.

The Western District of Virginia recently opened a vet court, and in February of this year, a 45-year-old Persian Gulf Navy veteran, who'd been charged with multiple felonies related to manufacturing a weapon, avoided conviction and a 40-year prison sentence by completing his treatment program.

This past March, a 32-year-old army vet who developed PTSD after deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan became the first graduate of the Western District of New York's vet court, which is administered at the state level. The charges against him — assault, threatening to kill a VA worker and threatening to bomb a Buffalo television station — were dropped.

In the Eastern District of Missouri, U.S. District Judge Stephen N. Limbaugh Jr. quietly opened a federal vet court this past October in Cape Girardeau. (Prior to his appointment to the federal bench in 2008, Limbaugh served on the Missouri Supreme Court; his cousin, radio raconteur Rush, is somewhat less apt at flying under the radar.)

Coincidentally, the fifth federal-level vet court might take root in the Southern District of Illinois, raising the possibility that Dreux Perkins can add a bad-timing card to his hand of misfortunes. Since opening a vet court in Madison County in 2009, Circuit Judge Charles Romani Jr. has graduated 35 defendants, only one of whom has reoffended. He says he's willing to take on federal-level cases, and he has found an ally in Madison County Assistant State's Attorney John Fischer, who plans to pitch the idea to U.S. Attorney Stephen R. Wigginton sometime in the next few months.

"We're trying to stay ahead of the game," Fischer says. "This would be a measure to help out these veterans by filling the gap until the government wants to implement vet courts at the federal level."

Meanwhile, civilian offenders suffering from gambling addictions might soon have their day in diversion court.

"With gambling moving over to the addictions in the DSM, I hope they just start calling them addiction courts," says Jeremiah Weinstock, a Saint Louis University psychology professor who is investigating proposed changes to the pathological gambling criteria for the upcoming Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

The U.S. already has one gambling court.

Judge Mark Farrell, senior justice for criminal and civil courts in the affluent Buffalo suburb of Amherst, New York, set up shop in 2001 after learning that many of his fraud and larceny cases stemmed from gambling addictions. Though he hopes other judges follow his lead, he doubts many legislators will rally to the cause anytime soon.

"The government is facing a budgetary shortfall as is," notes Farrell, adding that casino taxes are a major source of tax revenue. "This is a subjective opinion on my part, but who's the biggest partner for gaming? Government."


Casino taxes aren't the only source of gambling-related government revenue.

Military personnel fork over a hefty chunk of change.

A spokesman for the U.S. Army says its Recreation Machine Program operates 2,189 electronic-gaming machines on overseas army, navy and marine bases outside combat zones worldwide. A similar program administered by the air force accounts for another 1,100 machines.

In the fiscal year ending September 30, 2011, the military netted $142.3 million through its slot machines. The funds are earmarked for the upkeep of golf courses, bowling alleys, skate parks and other recreational facilities the military operates for personnel and their families.

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3 comments
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Marilyn Lancelot
Marilyn Lancelot

Sure, everyone loves to gamble . . . if they win. But, the person sitting next to you in church, the man in line at the grocery store, or one of your co-workers; any one of these could be involved with a gambling problem. Imagine your grandmother committing a crime to support her gambling addiction. I am a recovering alcoholic, gambler, and have recovered from other addictive behaviors. I published a book, Gripped by Gambling, where the readers can follow the destructive path of the compulsive gambler, a prison sentence, and then on to the recovery road.

I recently published a second book, Switching Addictions, describing additional issues that confront the recovering addict. If a person who has an addictive personality, doesn’t admit to at least two addictions, he’s not being honest. Until the underlying issues have been resolved, the person will continue to switch addictions. These are two books you might consider adding to your library. I also publish a free online newsletter, Women Helping Women, which has been on-line for more than twelve years and is read by hundreds of women (and men) from around the world. (www.femalegamblers.info). I have been interviewed many times, and appeared on the 60 Minutes show in January 2011, which was moderated by Leslie Stahl.

Sincerely,

Marilyn Lancelot

Terry
Terry

I find this article scraping the bottom of the barrel to find something to write about. As a Vietnam Vet there is a very big difference between to days vet that all volunteered and in some cases elected to join the military instead of going to jail and or to prevent from becoming homeless. So what do you expect , I ask? and the attention they all get for a JOB. Vietnam Vets in most all cases where forced to join with a draft and had to drop from college, good jobs and family's just to be called baby killers and suffer medical issues from chemicals we sprayed to kill not just plant's and trees but humans as we were nothing more than ant's. Please write news that makes some sort of sense...

Stephen Lambert
Stephen Lambert

We don't do near enough for these guys and gals when they come home.

 
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