A two-year effort to get a combat veteran into an intensive prison alternative program hit a wall Thursday when an El Paso County judge sentenced him to eight years behind bars in the drunken shooting of an Army friend.
Former Staff Sgt. Cory Griffin, 27, was sentenced one day after El Paso County District Attorney Dan May fueled hopes for a different outcome by agreeing to an 11th-hour visit with Griffin’s advocates, who emphasized the soldier’s repeated diagnoses of severe post-traumatic stress disorder and outlined what they saw as gaps in the investigation.
May declined to intervene, however, deferring to senior prosecutor Brien Cecil, who earlier accused a psychologist of “drinking the Kool-Aid” in asserting that Griffin suffered from dissociative episodes brought on by bloody tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“They say they understand what our veterans go through, but I think this paints the picture that they speak out of both corners of their mouths,” said Georg-Andreas Pogany of USJAG, a nonprofit that seeks to assist veterans after crimes triggered by combat stress.
The case involved conflicting accounts of a Nov. 9, 2014, shooting and dueling psychological evaluations from mental health experts.
Griffin’s looming prison sentence became a flashpoint in a dispute over admissions criteria for El Paso County’s Veterans Trauma Court, where prosecutors have veto power over who gets in, barring any defendants who use weapons to commit crimes.
Treating psychologist Miriam Blum, a 41-year mental health counselor, testified that Griffin was in a severe dissociative state when he shot fellow soldier Nathan Dragovich in the hand and then crawled into a utility closet, where he lay in a fetal position screaming about the Taliban.
Other supporters noted that Veterans Court administrator Leo Martinez wrote in support of accepting Griffin’s case, and that the probation department identified him as a suitable candidate for a treatment-intensive prison alternative.
Fort Carson’s top officer, Maj. Gen. Ryan Gonsalves, terminated disciplinary proceedings against Griffin and ordered that he be considered for a medical release from the Army, which was granted in March. Read More