When District Court Judge Lou Olivera sentenced a retired Green Beret to jail for probation violation recently, no one expected his next move.
After four combat tours in Afghanistan, special force soldier Joe Serna came home in a downward spiral, which included PTSD and a DWI charge. He entered the veteran’s treatment court program in the Cumberland County courthouse.
Serna is a decorated war veteran. But since his retirement, he has used alcohol to fight battlefield demons. Then last week, he told Judge Olivera that he lied in court. The judge sentenced him to lock-up, then shocked everyone with his compassion. When the cell door closed behind that war veteran, the judge was locked up with him so his PTSD would not be triggered.
Olivera, himself a Gulf War veteran, said that with Serna’s PTSD, he worried about the effects of a night in isolation lock-up. Olivera said he would have done it for any of the other dozen vets in his treatment court.
“We are more like a family, the court and the team makes a huge difference in recovery,” Olivera said.
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