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

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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