After about two years on the lam, Nathan Hawkins is back in Dallas County's jail, but he likely won't be there for long.
Hawkins, 36, had been on probation for 12 years, stemming from a 2007 charge for burglary of a building, a state jail felony. His case was the subject of a cover story in the June 27 edition of the Dallas Observer. Hawkins was rearrested earlier this month and appeared at a probation revocation hearing Thursday afternoon and Friday morning.
Hawkins pleaded guilty to the burglary charge in 2007 after he and a friend threw a party at a home where they were house-sitting. During the party, guests broke into the owner's garage and stole a few tools. He was sentenced to five years of probation. But as technical violations have stacked up over the years, Hawkins' probation term has stretched on for more than a decade.
Hawkins appeared at the hearing wearing a black-and-gray striped jail jumpsuit, with his hands shackled in front of him. During testimony, Hawkins acknowledged that he deserved some punishment for the burglary. But after his probation was extended again and again, he began to feel like the finish line didn't exist, he said.
"I was more than just discouraged," he said. "I just felt that there was no end in sight."
Hawkins was required to avoid alcohol as a part of the Intensive Intervention Program, a special court that deals with probationers who have a history of technical violations. At one point during his probation, Hawkins was ordered to pay for an in-home urinalysis system, which he was required to use three times a day at specified times. Each month, he was required to pay to have the machine calibrated.
But during a hearing Thursday afternoon, Christine Biederman, Hawkins' attorney and a former Dallas Observer staff writer, presented Hawkins' original probation agreement, showing he'd been ordered to avoid a long list of illegal drugs. But the list makes no mention of alcohol. Biederman argued that Hawkins had been cited for a probation violation at least once for alcohol use in spite of the fact that he'd never been formally ordered not to drink alcohol.
During testimony, Hawkins said that during his nearly two years on the lam, he's repaired relationships with his family, caught up on child support payments he owed and found gainful employment. Three times during testimony, Hawkins fought back tears while talking about his five daughters and how his probation affected his relationship with them.
Biederman asked Judge Ernest White either to deny prosecutors' motion to revoke Hawkins' probation and let him go free, or else revoke his probation, reduce his sentence from 24 months to 20 and let him free on time served. She argued that Hawkins has shown over the last two years that he's been rehabilitated.
"This is a success story. He finally grew up," she said. "Part of winning is knowing when to declare victory and call it a day."
Hawkins told White that he was willing to do whatever it took to free himself from the probation system and get back to his life.
"I just want it to be over," he said. "I want all of this to be over. I just want to be able to move on with my life."
Before sentencing, Judge White told Hawkins that most of his problems stem from an unwillingness to comply with the program. White said he was glad to hear that Hawkins was beginning to get his life on track, but he wouldn't reward him for skipping out on his probation.
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"The biggest problem you've got, in the court's eyes, is that you just absconded from probation," White told him.
White accepted prosecutors' motion to revoke Hawkins' probation and sentenced him to two years in jail, the maximum sentence for a state jail felony.
But with credit for time served in the Dallas County jail and court-ordered stints he's successfully completed in various treatment facilities, Hawkins is likely to walk out of jail in a few weeks.
When he does, for the first time in more than a decade, he'll be a free man.