Veterans Diversion Program in Federal Court
If a veteran is convicted of a federal crime, is there any way to avoid incarceration? While Veteran Diversion Programs are well-known at the state level, federal diversion programs for veterans can be more difficult to understand and gain admission to. Joseph Brodie is one veteran, convicted of a federal crime, who could have benefited from a federal Veterans Diversion Program had he been made aware of it.
In Spring 2017, Brodie began speaking with U.S. Rep Frank LoBiondo to request assistance with the medical treatment he had been receiving from the Veterans Administration. Brodie remained in contact with LoBiondo’s Veterans Affairs Liaison and a case worker for several months, and received assistance with scheduling appointments and meetings regarding his medical care. On September 19, 2017, Brodie spoke to LoBiondo’s chief of staff and asked him to arrange a meeting with the congressman, but the chief of staff refused.
Brodie, angry that he could not schedule a meeting with LoBiondo, called the chief of staff a “dead man.” The same day, Brodie emailed the Veterans Affairs Liaison and the case worker that had been managing Brodie’s case, threatening to kill them, LoBiondo, and his staff. He attached an aerial photo of the congressman’s office and wrote “see where your office is and how easy it is to find… it even shows the environment and surrounding terrain, parking lots, wooded areas, etc., (like the kind a highly trained Combat Infantryman would use).” Brodie then texted his girlfriend and, after telling her what happened, said “I won’t surrender. It’s not in me” and that he was going to kill LoBiondo’s chief of staff.
Joseph Brodie was charged with two counts of threatening officials, officers, and employees of the United States, and was convicted by a federal jury of both charges on October 10, 2018.
With the help of an experienced military and criminal lawyer, Joseph Brodie likely could have received admission to a federal Veterans Diversion Program rather than spend time in jail. 34 U.S. Code § 10651 details adult and juvenile collaboration programs and outlines how veterans can gain admittance to federal veterans’ treatment court programs. These programs provide veterans with intensive judicial supervision and case management, a full continuum of treatment services like mental health services, substance abuse services, and medical services. They also provide services to address trauma, alternatives to incarceration, housing, transportation, mentoring, employment, job training, and education.
To qualify, veterans must have served on active duty in any branch of the Armed Forces, including the National Guard or Reserves, and have a discharge other than dishonorable, unless the dishonorable discharge was due to a substance abuse disorder. The veteran should also be a preliminary qualified offender, meaning they have not been charged or convicted of any sex offense or a murder or assault with intent to commit murder. Furthermore, in determining if a veteran should receive admittance to a treatment court program, the judge, prosecutor, defense attorney, probation or corrections official, and mental health or substance abuse representative should consider the criminal history of the veteran, their risk of violence in the community, the views of any victims of the offense, and the extent to which the veteran and his or her community would benefit from the veteran’s participation in the program.
Admission to a federal veterans treatment court can be invaluable to protecting a veteran’s life and livelihood when charged with a federal crime. The experienced military and criminal lawyers at Thomas Roughneen and Associates are knowledgeable in obtaining admission to veterans treatment programs. If you are a veteran charged with a federal offense, call us for a consultation at 973-937-6010.