Death Of A Soldier by Charles E. Corry, Ph.D.


 

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Help Keep A Veteran Out Of Jail — Funds are needed to complete analysis of 5 years of veteran arrest data and integrate arrest data with court outcomes in order to develop more effective interventions than current "catch, convict, and release" practice that destroys so many veteran's lives.

 

Index

Prologue

Boulos, Paul Charbell

Beginning of the end

Driven to death

Admitted to the veteran treatment court

Chaptered out

Arrests and jailing continue

Home is the soldier

Review

Premature deaths of veterans

No way out of the "justice" system

The role of a veteran treatment court

Recidivism

Public safety

Reintegration of the veteran into society

Suggestions


 

Prologue

November 11, 2014 —The intention is to pay tribute to the brave men who go forth to fight our nation's battles and condemn the injustice they face upon return. We do not wish to speak ill of the deceased but to encourage the development of better methods of dealing with, and preventing tragedies like this.

If we accept the premise that a primary mission of the justice system is to provide for public safety then the unfortunate history of Paul Charbell Boulos provides a depressing example of how our courts are failing both veterans and the public weal.

We can, and must do better!

 

Boulos, Paul Charbell

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The following events are assembled from public records.

Paul Boulos entered the Army from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in March 1999 at age 24 and served until March 2012, rising to the rank of staff sergeant. During his enlistment he endured three combat infantry tours in Iraq and was highly decorated.

His problems with the Colorado justice system began in July-August 2001 with a couple of traffic tickets in Denver and another one in May 2002. He also had some trouble with an apartment complex in Arapahoe County in 2003, the sort of problems many young soldiers have.

Boulos first combat tour was in 2006.
Second combat tour in 2008

At some point he married Marina I. Gonzalez. As young couples with children often do they had money problems in 2008 after Paul completed his second tour in Iraq.

Beginning of the end

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Life really started downhill for Paul Boulos before his third combat tour in 2010. On February 26, 2010 his wife Marina filed charges of domestic violence [1] against him including criminal mischief, obstruction of telephone service, and harassment claiming he shoved, struck, or kicked her. On the following day he was charged with twice violating the mandatory protection order.

On April 13, 2010, Paul pled guilty to harassment and violating the restraining order and was given a deferred sentence.

From that day forward he was a dead man walking.

The other charges were dismissed. He completed probation for those offenses on September 18, 2012.

But troubles with his wife were just beginning and on March 3, 2010, Marina was granted a temporary restraining order against Paul. That order was vacated on March 15th. But probably with the help of her attorney or TESSA, Marina immediately filed for, and was granted another temporary restraining order the same day. The second order was vacated on April19th.

During this Marina filed for divorce on March 12, 2010, and custody and financial battles in the divorce continued until October 22, 2012. With a domestic violence conviction for Paul custody of their daughter went to Marina.

2010 – Third combat tour in Iraq

In the midst of this domestic chaos Paul completed his third combat tour in 2010.

There can be little doubt that Paul Boulos was engaged in heavy combat during his three tours in Iraq. Together with the emotional devastation of a divorce and losing his child he certainly suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It would be remarkable if he didn't also suffer from multiple traumatic brain injuries (TBI) after years of combat.

Driven to death

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Somehow Paul managed to stay out of the justice system after his third combat tour in Iraq until July 2011. But then his life completely disintegrated and the El Paso County, Colorado, jail and court records show the following:

• He was arrested and booked into the Criminal Justice Center (CJC) on July 14, 2011, and charged (case no.2011CR2374) with 18 counts of F4 felonies involving false information to a pawnbroker and theft/series-$200-$10,000 including domestic violence.

In October 2011 Paul was also in court in obvious financial difficulties when apparently his landlord seized his possessions for non-payment.

Paul failed to appear in that civil case (2011C34763) on October 18, 2011, involving a forcible entry and detainer dispute with E V Apartments. A summons was issued.

• Booked into CJC on October 19, 2011, and again charged with an F4 felony for theft $1,000-$20,000 and false information by seller to a pawnbroker. The booking charges are apparently a continuation of case number2011CR2374 and a result of the summons issued in the civil suit.

• In December 2011 he was back in court for problems with another apartment complex.

• CJC records show he was booked on January 9, 2012 and charged with an M1 misdemeanor for violation of a permanent restraining order most likely for attempting to visit his daughter. Apparently as a result of this Boulos missed a 9 AM Veteran Trauma Court (VTC) hearing on that date. But he also missed a hearing on January 12 th . There is no record of the disposition of the violation of the restraining order and that charge was apparently dropped.

Admitted to the veteran treatment court

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After missing a number of court hearings he was admitted to the local veteran treatment court after finally attending a hearing on January 19, 2012. As required of all veterans in that court, he pled guilty to F4 felony theft and was given a deferred sentence on April 5, 2012. This case was closed on July 24, 2014, just three days before his death, apparently after he paid restitution of $17,321, court costs of $1,624, and completed 50 hours of community service.

But Boulos problems were only beginning:

• Just one day later, on January 20, 2012, he was booked into CJC again, apparently as a result of missing hearings on case number 2011CR2374involving an F4 felony for theft-series - $1,000-$20,000 and false information by seller to a pawnbroker.

• Jailed again on February 8, 2012 for a bond hearing on case number 2011CR2374 in the veteran trauma court.

Chaptered out

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Following these multiple arrests Paul Boulos was reduced in rank to private (E-1) and, in lieu of a court martial, was separated from service under other than honorable conditions under Chapter 10 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) in March 2012.

That left him without VA medical treatment, a disability check, or any other benefits despite his obvious injuries.

Arrests and jailing continued

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• Boulos was booked into CJC again on November 8, 2012, and charged with misdemeanor contempt of court. His case was reviewed in the VTC at that time.

• Jailed again on January 17, 2013, apparently a continuation of case number 2011CR2374 involving felony theft. A review of his case was held on January 24, 2013, and he was released. Note that court records show his case was reviewed roughly every two weeks and Boulos often failed to appear. Such lapses are characteristic of individuals with traumatic brain injuries who don't have family or an advocate to insure they make appointments.

• Booked on April 4, 2013, and charged with civil contempt and a review of his case was held.

• Arrested on April 23, 2014, and charged with DUI, reckless/aggressive driving, failing to report an accident, and leaving the scene of an accident. This case was still open when he died on July 27, 2014.

Home is the soldier

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Despite his obvious injuries after three combat tours Paul Boulos was chaptered out with a less than honorable discharge after being reduced in rank to a private.

The available evidence strongly suggests that the cumulative strains of three combat tours in Iraq coupled with family destruction, together with his repeated incarcerations led to his premature death on July 27, 2014, presumptively from a heart attack, shortly after his fortieth birthday. He was also reported to be on a number of drugs, which is almost always true in cases like this.

Despite being highly decorated and surviving three combat tours he was buried without any military honors.


 

Review

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In review it is basic to understand the purpose of a justice system. As summarized in an article by Richard Garside:

"The purpose of the Criminal Justice System...is to deliver justice for all, by convicting and punishing the guilty and helping them to stop offending, while protecting the innocent."

In Paul Boulos' case, and many others we've tabulated in the past four years, the justice system failed in the following ways:

• Boulos was not confined, deterred, or prevented in any way from committing additional crimes despite 18 counts of Level 4 and 6 felonies, as well as other misdemeanors including domestic violence and driving while intoxicated. F4 felonies in Colorado normally carry a 2 to 6 year prison sentence.

• After his first conviction for domestic violence in 2010 it was virtually impossible for him to remain in the military or to obtain employment and reintegrate into civilian life.

• Given the Lautenberg Amendment the domestic violence conviction ended his military career after 13 years of exceptional service to his country.

• In many cases the veteran's drivers license is revoked. But they still have to go to court hearings, visit their probation officer, provide urine or other samples to check for drugs, meet their therapist, and buy groceries and pickup their medications. Of course a traffic stop then sends them back to jail.

• After a few arrests it becomes obvious that it is no big deal to spend a few days in jail, take a plea to some reduced charge, and be tossed back out on to the street. Of course these arrests and convictions make it impossible to stay in the military or hold a job.

• The "catch, convict, and release" policy evident here provides no incentive for a defendant to remain law abiding after their release from custody. In fact, they often have no choice but to commit additional crimes in order to survive.

• Being on probation makes it impossible for them to leave the county even though they may have family or friends elsewhere that could help them reclaim their lives.

• If they have children the Department of Human Services Child Protection Services (DHS/CPS) often won't let them take their children out of the county even if they are not on probation.

• Without a job or money they crash at a buddies or possibly in one of the many shelters if space is available. Being homeless becomes their norm.

• Veteran's problems are certainly worsened by a dysfunctional medical system in the county jail where their drug regime is repeatedly interrupted during multiple arrests. Such rapid deprivation magnifies drug reactions and depression and suicidal ideation have been reported as a result.

• Despite being given deferred sentences convictions are still readily publicly available for the rest of their life. As evidence, court records were used to assemble this timeline.


 

Premature deaths of veterans

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As did Paul Boulos, veterans who have experienced severe or prolonged combat die prematurely from various causes. And Iraq and Afghanistan veterans commonly saw three, four, five, or sometimes more combat tours.

It is estimated that at least 22 veterans a day commit suicide. These statistics only count cases where suicide is the stated cause of death and the individual is known to be a veteran. So actual suicides are certainly greater than published values.

Suicide is the factor most talked about but Katz (2013) points out that homelessness is as large a factor. And the relationship between homelessness and veteran arrests is unquestionable.

There are also many cases of premature deaths in veterans that are linked to the multitude of prescription drugs they are often prescribed. Of particular note are the fatalities associated with both legal and illegal drugs, notably opioids, veterans take for pain and relief from the multiple symptoms of PTSD.

The death of young veterans by heart attack is a problem that goes far beyond the case of Paul Boulos. This problem was reviewed by Rappaport (2012) based on the research of neurologist Fred Baughman, Jr. M.D., Fellow, American Academy of Neurology, and Diplomate, American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. Dr. Baughman refers to these cases as Soldiers Dead In Bed and as of September 2014 he has tabulated over 400 such cases. As he notes, this is far from a complete list and the problem continues unabated. Seroquel (an antipsychotic) is the drug most frequently linked to these deaths but other antipsychotic and antidepressants have also been identified in such cases particularly when Paxil (antidepressant) and Klonopin (benzodiazepine) are prescribed and taken together. And the negative effects of these drugs are magnified when dosage is suddenly interrupted, as for example; the veteran is thrown in jail.

Accidents, often deliberate, and alcoholism also account for numerous, but usually uncounted veteran deaths as reviewed by Alan Zarembo in a December 2013 article in the LA Times.

The cumulative impact is horrific. Between 2,709,918 to 3,173,845 American veterans served in-country and in interior waters of Vietnam between 1954 and 1975 (American War Library, 2007). Yet less than one third of the veterans who survived ground combat in Vietnam are alive today although most would only be in their 60s or early 70s. For example, see the discussion by Duff (2009).

The prognosis for current veterans is no more favorable. Already it is estimated that more have died from suicide than in combat in both wars. The "catch, convict, and release" policy of our local justice system ensures that thousands of our veterans will become homeless and almost certainly suffer an early death.

The total number of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who have died since returning from those theaters isn't known but certainly far exceeds any published figures.

At present the courts and district attorney are certainly doing their best to add to the carnage.

 

No way out of the "justice" system

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The Equal Justice Foundation has been collecting and tabulating veteran arrests since July 2010. Some factors stand out in the data:

• The majority of the arrests are for domestic violence and traffic infractions. Under current laws every manifestation of PTSD is "domestic violence" if the veteran is in a relationship.

• Once arrested it is very probable the veteran will be arrested again if they remain in El Paso County, Colorado, often multiple times a year.

• As noted previously, quite commonly veteran's driver licenses are revoked. But they are still required to make court hearings, visit their probation officers, take drug tests, to say nothing of needing groceries, etc., which can often only be done by driving in today's world. So they are arrested again, and often again for driving without a license and related charges.

• Although both medical and recreational marijuana are legal in Colorado veterans frequently have their probation revoked if they use that drug. Or, having committed new crimes, their probation is revoked. The veteran is then back in the county jail for days, weeks, or months and likely with new convictions on their record.

• Released from jail they now have no job, even if they had one to begin with, and after a few cycles become homeless. To survive homelessness they commit more crimes...

This cycle is repeated over and over and over again in the veteran arrest records and to escape alive from our justice system seems nearly impossible.

One gains the impression this is deliberate in order to maintain and increase the budgets for the courts and district attorney.

 

The role of a veteran treatment court

To be successful a veteran court, or any other court for that matter, must provide justice for the individual and safety for the public.

Recidivism

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In pushing to establish a veteran treatment court (VTC) here in 2008 a major selling point was the promise that it would reduce recidivism and thereby increase public safety.

• That promise has yet to be proven; in large measure because a veteran is required by the district attorney to plead guilty and accept a plea bargain in order to be accepted into the VTC.

• Less than 3% of the veterans known to have been arrested since the court was stood up in 2010 were admitted to the VTC so there cannot have been a meaningful reduction in recidivism with such a small fraction participating.

• Multiple arrests of many veterans after being admitted to the VTC are known to have occurred, of which Boulos is but one example. So there is currently no evidence that the VTC has or will reduce recidivism as presently constituted.

Public safety

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No justice system is of any value unless it can clearly and convincingly demonstrate that it increases public safety.

There is no evidence that public safety was enhanced despite the extraordinary efforts of the veteran treatment court in Boulos' case.

While data analysis has not been completed, preliminary results show the same negative results regarding public safety with other veterans as in the Boulos case. One woman in the VTC has been arrested five times in four years for driving under the influence, certainly presenting a great hazard to the public. Another male veteran in the VTC has been jailed fifteen times in the four-plus years we've been accumulating the data.

This raises the question of how effective veteran courts are in general?

Reintegration of the veteran into society

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To be successful a veteran court must enable a veteran to reintegrate into society.

However, once convicted, and a plea bargain is a conviction, the evidence is clear that a veteran will find it difficult, if not impossible to find a job. And even if he does the conditions of his parole are likely to make it unlikely that he can keep it. Add to that the likely rearrests and the odds of a successful reintegration into society are near zero with the current system.

Available evidence clearly demonstrates the present justice system is criminogenic.

 

Suggestions

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It would be the opposite of our intent to think we are suggesting we should lock up veterans like Paul Boulos and throw away the key, as was done in many cases with Vietnam veterans. Instead we need to find and implement better ways and means for traumatized and wounded veterans to reintegrate into society and stabilize their behavior.

It is also critical to note that our, and other studies have found that PTSD commonly occurs, or reoccurs years and decades after the trauma. Solutions must therefore encompass lifelong treatment.

• Bring more groups and individuals on board to help with these problems. History plainly shows veteran problems are not well dealt with by limiting these cases to the justice system. There are numerous agencies and charities dealing with these problems in El Paso County, Colorado, who we are certain would be glad to help.

• Do an evaluation and begin any necessary treatment the first time a veteran comes to the attention of law enforcement. As noted, this is quite likely to occur many years or decades after the veteran leaves the military and post-deployment evaluations have not proven to be conclusive. Also, combat isn't necessary for a veteran to have developed PTSD, TBI, or other trauma/injuries while in the military. Sexual assaults, accidents, various training injuries, etc. can all result in post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries.

• Provide the means and incentives for a veteran to seek and complete treatment and remain law abiding. At present there is no "carrot" in the justice system approach.

• For driving under the influence of alcohol cases provide an interlock in their car to prevent driving drunk. Interlocks are cheaper than jail but penalties for disabling the interlock must be severe.

• Provide restricted (Red) drivers licenses whenever possible instead of simply taking the license away. All too often the veteran must drive anyway and that leads to further offenses and arrests.

• Allow, nay encourage the use of medical marijuana (MMJ). MMJ has proven to be the safest and most effective drug available for treatment of sleeplessness, irrational anger, and many other manifestations of PTSD.s

• Currently if the criminal case against a veteran is dismissed or they are acquitted they are not likely to be evaluated or treated for military injuries. But they are certainly further traumatized by the justice system.

• Often times the veteran is in court with civil or domestic problems, e.g., divorce, that may well lead to criminal charges, e.g., domestic violence. Without a clinical intercept at the beginning of their tribulations in the civilian justice system the odds of criminal behavior are greatly increased. The same is true for minor violations, e.g., a traffic ticket that may be a precursor to later criminal activity. Evaluations such as the Mississippi Scale for PTSD can be done fairly rapidly and at low cost. Though no guarantee, such evaluations could lead to early treatment and reduced criminal activity.

• Develop a diversion program with the sheriff to take veterans with minor charges directly to a treatment center rather than jail. Jail simply traumatizes them further. Veterans with petty and traffic offenses shouldn't be ending up in the county jail. However, it could well be advisable and practical to take such cases to the proposed treatment center for an evaluation. Or the ticket issued by a peace officer could order them to report there as is now done for a court appearance.

• Many cases could be moved from the current practice of imposing a deferred sentence conviction to pretrial diversion as defined in C.R.S. §18-1.3-101. In 2013 the Colorado legislature (HB13-1156, amended in 2014 by SB14-206) revised the pretrial diversion statute to make it much more favorable to such an approach. Under this statute charges are dismissed if and when restitution and treatment are completed. As no conviction shows on the veteran's record this would greatly facilitate the veteran's reintegration into society and, thus, increase public safety. Only the intransigence of the district attorney prevents taking this approach.

• Insofar as possible consolidate court actions for veterans under one judge for consistent adjudication or judgment. It is clear that Paul Boulos went before at least fourteen different judges as the justice system hounded him to death.

• The current system traps many veterans, and often their families, in El Paso County, Colorado, without any extended family support that might be available in their hometowns. Where evidence exists that a veteran's extended family is willing and able to provide needed support, and suitable medical facilities are available there, arrange to transfer the parole of appropriate veterans to their hometowns. Or if an evaluation determines the veteran is likely to cause further problems if left unsupported here, then help them return to their extended family if they are amenable. That approach would definitely save El Paso County considerable crimes and money.

We urgently need to stop making criminals of veterans with hidden wounds.

Charles E. Corry, Ph.D.

President, Equal Justice Foundation

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1. Note that in Colorado misdemeanor charges range from M1 to M3 and felony charges range from F1 (first-degree murder) to F6. Domestic violence is not a crime in and of itself but a classification applied when any other crime involves intimate partners and additional and special penalties apply.


 

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Added November 17, 2014

Last modified 5/17/15