COURT WATCH: Despite Drug Addiction Struggle and Alleged Lack of Assigned Doctor, Judge Terminates Veteran’s Treatment Program


By Ivan Villegas

MODESTO, CA – “I know that you’re using and you’re not in treatment. And we have given you a number of chances,” began Judge Carrie Stephens Monday morning during a review hearing in Stanislaus County Superior Court of a military veteran.

“My inclination is to terminate you from veteran’s treatment court. But I’ll…give you a chance to say whatever you wanted to say,” the judge added.

The accused was currently in veteran’s treatment court as an alternative sentence to incarceration for a prohibited possession of a firearm and tear gas by a person previously convicted of a felony.

During the hearing, Judge Stephens first turned to Stanislaus Public Defender Neil Zientek, who said, “Just to be brief your honor, with the recent search there was some contraband found. But it seems like (the accused) was unlikely to be making use of that contraband.”

The PD added, “He was given a drug test and did not test positive for marijuana or any of its derivatives as far as we’re aware, which typically stays in your body for a fairly long period of time…he said it was old stuff that probation had previously searched his house and never found that he wasn’t aware of.”

Before turning to the district attorney, Judge Stephens asked for any additional comments.

“Your honor, recovering from amphetamine addiction is not easy, people continue to stumble. We would ask that you give (the accused) another chance for him to do some sort of in-patient recovery possibly.”

Judge Stephens then turned to the prosecution, Deputy District Attorney Jared Carrillo, who said “unfortunately I’m looking at our last appearance…and it doesn’t appear that there was any indication…he would test positive…unfortunately I concur with the court’s position at this point.”

The probation department then confirmed it recommended terminating the treatment program because of the drug use.

The judge then admitted, “I don’t know whether he’s using it or not but I don’t have a positive drug test that says as much. My issue with [the defendant] is that…when he is in the program, he does pretty well. He’s a model participant…and almost immediately he started using again.”

“His drug use is significant, it may be part of the reason he has medical issues, I don’t really know. It was not really surprising to me, at that point in time, that he tested positive for methamphetamines,” said the judge, noting she had issued a bench warrant for a failure to appear in February and then permanently stayed it after the last court appearance.

Turning to the defendant, Judge Stephens said, “I don’t believe that your participation in veteran’s treatment court has been what it is.”

“I didn’t get nothing from you anyways, so I’m okay with it,” interjected the accused, referring to the termination of their treatment program.

He quickly added, “I don’t have a doctor still. We talked about that last month, I still don’t have a doctor. So to me it’s like, the VA, I didn’t do this to me, you guys did it to me. So I’m okay with it.”

Judge Stephens did not address this issue, and instead moved on with the termination.

“The court is finding that the defendant has not been in compliance with the veteran’s court team, now blaming everybody else for his problems,” the judge said.

The defendant attempted to say something but the judge stopped and said, “stop talking. And veteran’s treatment court is now terminated.”

At that point, Judge Stephens reimposed the prison sentence of 16 months, according to the previously stipulated agreement, adding “the term is appropriate due to the stipulation by the parties and the unsuccessful participation in veteran’s treatment court.”

In addition, the judge ordered the defendant to provide any biological samples to law enforcement and reimposed all previously waived court fines and fees.

“The defendant is remanded…to the Department of Corrections to serve his prison sentence (and) bail is set to no bail. That’s it,” Judge Stephens concluded.


About The Author

Ivan Villegas (he/him) is a criminal justice graduate from CSU Sacramento. He wishes to continue his studies in law school starting in fall 2023. He is interested in immigration and international law, and hopes to use his degree for a career as an immigration attorney.

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