CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A circuit judge told a veteran charged in several local thefts that the government has let him down in his need for mental health and drug treatment services.
James Edward Russell, 33, of Charleston has spent the past year in jail after failing to successfully complete the adult Drug Court program. He pleaded guilty to committing two robberies in Kanawha City.
In 2011, Russell stole cash and property from Budget Tapes and he stole a gold ring from a woman at the McDonalds restaurant.
In court Tuesday, Russell, a father of three, asked Kanawha Circuit Judge Jennifer Bailey for another chance to avoid prison. His attorney, Brian Cook, said Russell suffers from multiple addictions and mental health problems caused by injuries suffered in combat in Iraq.
"He has these two felony convictions," Cook said. "But there was no violence involved. We're asking for an alternative sentence with a structured treatment plan."
Bailey said that there are not enough services available to veterans who come through the criminal justice system.
"I understand you had military awards from when you were in Iraq," she told Russell. "I find it very troubling that our federal government has not done more for people who can't afford to pay."
Bailey oversees the Kanawha Drug Court program and said efforts to get Russell into long-term care for his addictions did not work out. He was taken into custody when he violated the rules of the program.