A disabled Iraq War veteran faces five years in prison for marijuana possession after an Alabama judge denied his release, citing his past criminal record.
Alabama circuit judge Samuel Junkin denied a motion that would allow Sean Worsley to move to a community supervision programme instead of a state prison on Wednesday.
Mr Worsley was arrested for marijuana possession while driving through Alabama from his home state of Arizona, where he has been legally prescribed the drug. If convicted, he could face five years in the Alabama Department of Corrections.
The judge said that he denied Mr Worsley’s motion because of his past criminal records and attempts to leave the state.
“Because the Defendant has fled this jurisdiction both times he was released, failed to comply with any condition of bond or probation and has 5 felony convictions, including one he received while on probation from this Court’s sentence, this Court finds that the Defendant is not a suitable candidate for placement in the Community Corrections Program,” Judge Junkin said. “Therefore, the request is DENIED.”
Previously, the veteran was arrested for a non-violent marijuana related charge and pleaded guilty.
Mr Worsley, a disabled veteran, earned a Purple Heart for his time served in Iraq and reportedly suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from his service. Doctors where medicinal marijuana is legalised can prescribe the drug to help relieve symptoms related to PTSD.
Advocates with Alabama Appleseed, a nonprofit organisation, told multiple publications they thought they had an iron-clad case for Mr Worsley to be moved to a community supervision programme. He currently is sitting in Pickens County Jail in Alabama awaiting transport to state prison to begin serving a five-year sentence.
Judge Junkin was presented with community supervision for the veteran that would’ve included an employment offer from BLOX LLC, a design, manufacturing, and construction company in Bessemer, Alabama. In the offer letter, BLOX said it would help Mr Worsley and his wife find stable housing in the town, according to Fox News.
The State of Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs penned a letter to the judge that promised counsel to advocate for Mr Worsley. Receipts of the court costs and fees were also submitted, showing the balances have been paid in full.
The Alabama Department of Corrections deemed Mr Worsley suitable for transfer. The judge who initially sentenced Mr Worsley also approved transferring him to Community Corrections with the Veteran’s Treatment County.
But that was all denied.
At the time of his initial arrest, Mr Worsley was with his wife, Eboni. They were driving through Alabama on their way to North Carolina to help his mother with hurricane damage on her home.
Mrs Worsley has since moved to Alabama to stay close to her husband while they await his transfer to the state prison system.
“At this point, the family and I are really starting at ground zero. We have to find new lawyers,” she told Fox News. “We have to find appeal attorneys and an attorney who will go in and speak to him.”
Due to the news cycle surrounding his case, members of the community have rallied behind the family. More than 2,000 people donated a total of nearly $100,000 online. This money was used to pay Pickens County what they said Mr Worsley owed them for court fees and other expenses. It also went towards a rental home for Mrs Worsley.
But Mrs Worsley said the money was dwindling as she awaits her husband’s transfer.
“In Mr. Worsley’s case, Alabama’s justice system worked exactly as it was designed to,” Leah Nelson, a lead researcher with the Alabama Appleseed, told Fox News.
“The arresting officer, judge and prosecutor each exercised discretion at various points, but ultimately, what happened to Mr. Worsley is a predictable outcome of Alabama’s grossly punitive drug laws and the United States’ refusal to meet disabled veterans where they are or provide them with the services they need.”