A veteran judge sentenced a veteran who served three tours in Afghanistan to a night in jail for violating probation. And went with him.
Joe Serna, 41, is battling post-traumatic stress disorder and has self-medicated with alcohol to quiet those demons, he said. He was diverted to Cumberland County Veterans Court in North Carolina after being charged with DUI and offer driving offenses, authorities said.
He was supposed to stay sober and report to the court every two weeks. But he admitted, earlier this month, to lying about the results of his last urinalysis. He had slipped, he said, and tested positive for alcohol consumption.
Judge Lou Olivera, who served in the Gulf War, sentenced Serna to a night behind bars. The next day he drove Serna to the nearby Lumberton jail.
"When Joe first came to turn himself in, he was trembling," the judge said, according to The Associated Press. "I decided that I'd spend the night serving with him."
Serna said he was sitting on his bunk "and then, in walks the judge. I knew this was a very compassionate man."
The two vets talked into the night about their military service.
"It was more of a father-son conversation as opposed to a judge talking to someone and sentencing them. It was personal," Serna said.
The judge said he wanted to help, not just punish.
"They have worn the uniform and they know they can be contributing members of society. We just want to get them back there," he said.