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.

Dreux Perkins came home to Greenville, Illinois, carrying baggage he didn’t have when he was deployed to Iraq with the army’s 101st Airborne: post-traumatic stress disorder and a gambling addiction.
Dreux Perkins came home to Greenville, Illinois, carrying baggage he didn’t have when he was deployed to Iraq with the army’s 101st Airborne: post-traumatic stress disorder and a gambling addiction.

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 State 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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11 comments
James Hodges
James Hodges

They already gambled with their lives... what's a little money...?

David F
David F

From the headline: "...when the chips are down." Really guys? That's the best your cubby reporter could hork up, like an old crone coughing up a lung-clam? Embarrassing.

Ruth Ann
Ruth Ann

A few judgemental people out there.Not everyoone that was in combat.suffers from PTSD.Let's support those who suffer from PTSD. Jim M. is right. Work with PTSD patients at the VA and you will learn to understnad them and love them.

Brad Hicks
Brad Hicks

Yes, makin' mock o' uniforms that guard you while you sleepIs cheaper than them uniforms, an' they're starvation cheap;An' hustlin' drunken soldiers when they're goin' large a bitIs five times better business than paradin' in full kit.Then it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, 'ow's yer soul?"But it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll,The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,O it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll.

We aren't no thin red 'eroes, nor we aren't no blackguards too,But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;An' if sometimes our conduck isn't all your fancy paints,Why, single men in barricks don't grow into plaster saints;While it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, fall be'ind",But it's "Please to walk in front, sir", when there's trouble in the wind,There's trouble in the wind, my boys, there's trouble in the wind,O it's "Please to walk in front, sir", when there's trouble in the wind.

(excerpted from Rudyard Kipling, "Tommy," Barracks-Room Ballads, 1892. http://faxmentis.org/html/kipl...

Trailer Trash
Trailer Trash

Hmm... an AIR FORCE combat vet? Sitting in a shelter at on an airfield is not exactly being a 91B door kicker...Being a "Combat Vet".. does not excuse anyone from anything. Every SINGLE person who served in Afghanistan OR Iraq VOLUNTEERED to be there. Relation does not equal causation...A PRISON GUARD? Prison guards are nothing more than people who could not make it onto police forces.

James Hodges
James Hodges

Trailer Trash... ummm yep that sounds about right...

BILL
BILL

Really? I served in COMBAT in VIETNAM for 34 months and do not have a gambling or DRUG problem. I also have been a Correctional Officer and never smuggled anything in .

lonedog
lonedog

Nothing new to this. Audi Murphy gambled away every dime he made.

Jim M
Jim M

Gambling addiction is a disease like heroin or cocaine. It helps reduce depression, you get a high, and the more you play the better win or lose. Usually people bottom out when they've lost everything and some take other measures to keep playing, lying, stealing, borrowing, etc. It is very very serious and not enough is being done to help those. A 12 step program is really not the answer.

Arthur Wiederhold
Arthur Wiederhold

As usual we are kicked to the curb. After using and abusing us, the military throws us out like so much trash. Nothing new here.

 
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