Sunday, 14 July 2024

Young vet heads to center for PTSD treatment

LAKE COUNTY – A young Iraq war vet is heading off to a Sacramento treatment center where officials say he'll be able to receive treatment for the post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that has troubled him since his return from the war.

The case of Derick Hughes, 21, of Upper Lake was chronicled in Lake County News this spring.

Hughes, a Marine, saw fierce fighting while in Iraq. On Dec. 1, 2005, 10 of his platoon members were killed by a roadside bomb during a promotion ceremony. During his tour he also suffered a dislocated shoulder.

A drug problem that followed Hughes through his service resulted in his eventual discharge once he returned to the states. He received no treatment for his shoulder and no help for the PTSD which resulted from the December 2005 incident. Once stateside, he was diagnosed with PTSD.

Last December, during a traffic stop, a Lake County Sheriff's deputy found Hughes in possession of a bat and Marine body armor panels that were later determined to be Marine property and stolen.

His attorneys, Steven and Angela Carter, took the bold step of sharing his case with the public, because they believe that Hughes is the perfect example of someone convicted of nonviolent crimes who, with the proper counseling and help, can become a contributing member of society.

Local veterans groups like the North Bay Veterans Resource Centers, a division of Vietnam Veterans of America, and Vietnam Veterans of America became advocates of Hughes as well. Many local Vietnam vets said they saw in Hughes symptoms and struggles that they had faced after returning home as young men from Vietnam.

On April 30, Judge Richard Martin found Hughes guilty of felony possession of stolen property and sentenced him to 280 days in jail, with 90 days time served.

Martin offered Hughes the chance to attend a North Bay Veterans Resource Center treatment program, in Sacramento, where he'll receive help for his PTSD and drug issues while receiving day-for-day credit against his jail time.

Treatment rather than jail

One of the people actively advocating behind the scenes to get Hughes into a treatment center is Marcy Orosco.

Orosco is the Director of Workforce and Housing Services, for North Bay Veterans Resource Centers, a division of VVC. Their local service area includes Lake, Mendocino and Sonoma counties.

She took an active interest in Hughes' case, because she, too, believes his case is an example of where treatment is a better choice than jail. Also, Orosco was well prepared and informed of the legislation for vets passed in March of 2006, AB 2586, which allows the court to consider treatment programs as part of probation in cases involving military veterans who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance abuse or psychological problems stemming from their military service.

Orosco works with about 50 local vets of all eras and demographics through the Veteran's Employment Assistance Program and Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program.

Those programs, Orosco explains, advocate for vets to receive and follow through with PTSD assistance and drug treatment, leading to employment and workforce development

Local vets suffering from PTSD seek assistance through county programs in Lake and Ukiah, which then sends them for individual treatment with a psychiatrist or groups said Orosco. VVC is located in 8 counties with housing, substance abuse treatment, case management, and advocacy with live-in treatment centers in Sacramento, Eureka and Petaluma.

NBVRC, a division of VVC also hopes to introduce permanent housing and treatment programs in both Lake and Mendocino counties.

Not long after Hughes originally was sentenced, Orosco helped secure him a bed at the Sacramento Veterans Resource Center, which is a long-term treatment facility which can work with special parameters set up by the local court.

But while Orosco and the Carters believed Hughes was headed for the center in June, a no-bail hold was placed on him by Deputy District Attorney Art Grothe, who had handled Hughes' original prosecution.

Back in court

Grothe, who also is reported to have served in Iraq in the National Guard, charged Hughes with a parole violation for having in his jail locker 48 small balloons, an extra spork (a plastic eating utensil that's a combined spoon and a fork) and a packet of mayonnaise. Grothe alleged that Hughes was planned to use the balloons to transport drugs. The materials were reportedly discovered May 5.

In the meantime, Hughes lost his place at the treatment center, was moved from his place in the jail's workers pod and returned to Martin's courtroom for a hearing July 6.

Another inmate, Raleigh Martin, claimed the balloons were used for water balloon fights to celebrate when inmates were released.

Grothe intimated that Martin, by admitting that he had taken part in such fights, was incriminating himself and could lose good behavior credits.

He also accused Hughes and another inmate of trying to run Pod I and said they had slapped around other inmates.

Steven Carter objected. "That's completely false," he said.

Carter pointed out no drug residue was found on the balloons, and argued that Grothe hadn't proved his case.

More importantly, Carter said he had never seen a jail inmate be brought up on a violation of parole charge for having contraband in his 14 years as a defense attorney in Lake County.

Grothe argued that Hughes' "long and demonstrated history of substance abuse" had given rise to his belief that the materials were to be used for smuggling drugs.

In the end, Judge Martin wasn't wholly convinced by either side.

Martin said that it's clear that such balloons are used for smuggling drugs. However, he pointed to one very large hole in the prosecution's case, which was whether the materials actually belonged to Hughes.

Martin pointed out that many other inmates – between 100 and 200 – had access to the locker, and that it's common for jail inmates to hide contraband in other peoples' lockers.

The judge found Hughes not guilty of the parole violation, but told him he had been looking at three years and eight months in prison if he had been convicted.

Next stop: Sacramento treatment center

Martin told Hughes he was concerned that he wasn't carefully following the jail rules, and was going to end up ruining his chances to start over and get treatment in a care facility.

"You need to sit down and take stock of where you're at," said Martin. "You need to take care of business."

Orosco, who was in the audience for the hearing, was called to the witness stand, where she explained the Sacramento Veterans Resource Center treatment program, and told the court Hughes had another bed lined up for him, but he needed to be able to report there by the end of July at the latest.

Grothe said he wanted Hughes' parole conditions modified to require adherence to all the facility's rules. Hughes' failure to follow the rules could end up in a parole violation.

Martin warned Hughes that if he's caught with drugs, the implications will be serious.

In the end, the judge wished the young vet good luck, and cautioned him to deal with his drug problem. "If you don't deal with it, it's going to come back to bite you."

The Carters and Orosco report that Hughes is due to be transported to the Sacramento facility any day.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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