There are many in the military and many in the veteran’s community in Colorado and nationally who have been watching–and who will continue to watch–the case of SSG Cory Griffin. On March 1, 2016 USJAG issued a national press release entitled, Justice for Vets: Playing with Heroes for Fun or Profit which has now been viewed by over 50,000 people.
Cory Griffin served multiple combat tours in the Middle East, including in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Following a last deployment to Qatar, he experienced readjustment issues like many veterans of the Global War on Terror (GWOT). One night at his residence, there took place what seems to have been an accidental discharge of a firearm slightly wounding a fellow soldier. Cory was a sniper with lots of combat experience…if he wanted to kill he probably would not have missed at close range and shot someone in the thumb.
Nevertheless, that didn’t prevent Colorado Springs District Attorney from charging him with Attempted Murder which carries a maximum sentence of 40 years. Diagnosed with combat-related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and evaluated by multiple mental health professionals who asserted that what took place at Cory’s residence was hardly an attempted murder. The police at arrest did not charge him with this offense. The Commanding General at Ft. Carson understood and recognized what had occurred. But none of that deterred District Attorney Dan May when he filed attempted murder charges against SSG Griffin.
Here’s the deal, it’s election time. While the District Attorney had previously and publicly thumped his chest with regard to admitting combat veterans to the Veterans Treatment Court (VTC) in Colorado Springs that was then, this is now. “Now” is election time and it’s just good politics to take a guy who shot another guy in the thumb and toss him in prison for 40 years so you can bellow from the podium about your tough stance on crime. Great, Mr. D.A., great. You should be very proud.
This incident calls into question the function and process of veterans courts, in general. They are great if you get nailed for a misdemeanor offense and you want to plead out in order to get “diverted” (what does “diversion” for a misdemeanor offense, post-conviction, really mean anyway?) to court supervision for a couple of years. However, if you are a combat soldier like SSG Cory Griffin and you’re involved in an incident where a firearm was used, well then apparently you’re pretty much screwed. It doesn’t matter, apparently, if this is precisely the sort of combat veteran the Veterans Courts should be helping. If you loiter or get drunk in public or perhaps get a DWI you may get into Veteran’s Court…the rest, oh well. It is very difficult to understand just what the point is, really. If you’re not going to admit this young soldier to a veteran’s court, then who?
So, charged with Attempted Murder SSG Griffin chose to enter a plea to lesser offenses carrying sentence(s) of 5-16 years. Why would someone plead guilty to an offense? It’s very simple, really. To mount a legal defense in an attempted murder case the cost runs in the tens of thousands of dollars and, despite expenditures, there is no guarantee you will win. So you weigh it out and ask, “Do I roll the dice and, if I lose, leave my wife who has already waited for me for years while I served in combat tens of thousands in debt and perhaps go to prison for a very long time or do I take the plea?” It is a scenario that plays out in court-rooms across the country on a daily basis. Essentially, you can purchase a measure of justice.
You can do something here, people. SSG Cory Griffin will stand before a Judge in Colorado Springs for his Sentencing hearing at the following time and location: