Stand by SSG Cory Griffin: If not this soldier for Veteran’s Court then who?

SSG Griffin, Iraq

Stand by SSG Cory Griffin: If not this soldier for Veteran’s Court then who?

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.

 

SSG Cory Griffin

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?

Charged with Attempted Murder?

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:


1:30, May 26th. It falls on a Thursday
Judge Lin Billings Vela, Division 1.
270 South Tejon St
P.O. Box 2980
Colorado Springs CO 80813

You can show up and stand with this young combat veteran and, with your attendance, show the District Attorney, the Officers of the Court and the public at large that you are not okay with this gross injustice.

 

Those who would like to take a bit of their time can also write to the Presiding Judge for Cory’s Sentencing hearing:

 

Judge Lin Billings Vela
Division 1. 270 South Tejon St
P.O. Box 2980
Colorado Springs CO 80813

 

36 Comments

  1. Debbie Griffin says:

    Excellent article Guy. Thank you Robert and Andrew for all your tireless efforts. Thank all of in advance who will be attending. Regardless of the outcome you make a difference. Our family is truely grateful.

    Debbie Griffin

  2. Debbie Griffin says:

    Excellent article Guy. Thank you Guy, Robert, and Andrew for all your tireless efforts. Thank all of you in advance who will be attending. Regardless of the outcome you make a difference. Our family is truely grateful.

    Debbie Griffin

  3. Rich says:

    Don’t condemn the Veterans Treatment Courts as a whole on this. We are trying to serve all who can benefit and protect society at the same time. Education of those who are still entrenched in archaic reasoning of how the criminal justice system should work should be the focus. I hope the public takes a close look at this case and takes the time to show up in court

  4. Guy Gambill says:

    I forgot one other very important issue. In a recent report by Swords to Plowshares and NVLSP it was noted that more than one third of veterans courts did not admit veterans discharged under less than honorable conditions. That’s a very serious omission given the fact that more than a third of the veterans in prison and jail have these types of discharges. When separations are linked to combat psychological trauma, such as PTSD, there should be consideration granted by the VTCs. In a recent article by the New York Times it was noted that 631,000 soldiers had been separated under less than honorable conditions. Since the SECDEF’s (Hagel) Memo in 2014, multiple sources have pointed out that these separations, in the case of combat veterans, represent nothing more than a cost-benefit savings to the VA and DOD. It is a really despicable thing. The Veterans Courts need to quit playing it safe and start taking a more strident position on these sub-issues. One last comment: How many justice-involved veterans are running the show in the Veteran’s Treatment Court national effort? If you aren’t raising up the population you serve to the apex of your efforts what message does that send, really?

  5. Dr. Judith Ray says:

    Escellent summary! Thanks for the name of the judge Cory will face at sentencing. I will write a strong letter! I will also remember when Dan May comes up for reelection!

  6. Dr. Judith Ray says:

    oops! meant “excellent!” (its been a long day!)

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