Despite what you might have read in newspaper articles, heard on the radio, or understood from social media, Drug Courts are for substance abuse treatment and are not used for general pretrial diversion for any non-violent felony except when substance abuse is behind the behavior. State laws, a published mission statement and the Washington and Madison Counties court administrative plan are clear in that regard.
There was nothing in the story regarding Anton Beard to suggest that there was a substance abuse problem before his deferral to Drug Court.
Let’s make one thing clear. I’m 100% for Beard’s ability to get on track and away from whatever caused him problems, and unlike some, I believe in 2nd chances.
Is there a substance abuse problem or not?
If there is then it matters to a lot of people who make scholarships possible.
If there’s not, then why is he being permitted to go to that Court when similar programs resulting in no conviction are available?
If there is no substance abuse problem, then why is the county using drug court resources and making Beard go through drug treatment for a non-existent drug problem?
**Above Added at 11:30 p.m. 11/20/2015 and edited 8:15 a.m. 11/21/2015**
Let’s make sure that the background is familiar.
On July 22, 2015 Anton Beard, Jacorey Williams and Dustin Thomas were arrested upon suspicion of first degree forgery for use of counterfeit bills at Fayetteville, Arkansas, businesses. Three Hogs arrested on forgery charges released, WholeHogSports.com, by Matt Jones July 22, 2015 updated July 23, 2015
Then on September 1, 2015, the Washington County Prosecutor Matt Durrett filed a Felony Information formally charging Anton Beard with “Counts 1-3: Forgery in the First Degree — (B Felony)” for allegedly having passed counterfeit $20 bills at EZ Mart, Walgreens and Tobacco Outlet.
After the charges were filed formally, not much happened publicly other than that the players entered not guilty pleas as expected, and there was a trial setting… at least until this week.
The Associated Press quoted Washington County Prosecutor Matt Durrett on Anton Beard’s situation as saying, “The charges are pending now. The case is just being continued, and if he completes it, they will be dismissed. But if not, then it will be as if drug court didn’t happen and he’ll be facing the full charges.”
College athletics fans “get” arrests and keep tabs on players and teams who seemingly use more than their fair share of athletes with “issues”. They have some sense of the money issues involved with athletes and that money makes college sports go ’round whether it be ticket prices, player stipends, March Madness success, creation of the Power 5 Conferences, or video games and the O’Bannon case.
Fans see the Anton Beard situation and have all sorts of things going through their heads. Across social media anyone can find conversations on:
- player accountability
- privilege of the scholarship and uniform
- second chances
- wondering what to think about it
- wondering whether there’s athlete favoritism
- throwing the book at wrongdoers
- coaches and use of players in trouble with the law
- character of players
- players do so much, work so hard that they need to be paid
- coaches recruiting players who get into trouble
and any number of other things.
But the one thing that’s unique here is the Drug Court twist.
Where were drugs or substance abuse in the charges or in the story?
Maybe not expressing it the same way, people are wondering whether this was not only an issue of allegedly passing counterfeit bills but also whether the allegations related in any way to substance abuse?
What difference does it make? It’s potentially TWO serious issues, not simply one, AND the issue is being glossed over.
What’s the nature of the problem with substance abuse? What’s the substance?
People will look differently upon the problem depending upon what it is.
Jacorey Williams had two issues, and he’s now on Middle Tennessee’s squad sitting out for a year.
Let’s flip this around. Suppose that Beard doesn’t have a substance abuse problem, and there’s absolutely no association in the case with substance abuse.
Why is Beard going to Drug Court?
Some have contended that Drug Court is simply a vanilla “pretrial diversion” program. NO. It’s Not.
Prosecutor Matt Durrett’s quote was clear that Beard was going to “Drug Court” and that if Beard didn’t comply that Beard would have all charges reinstated.
The law which permits judicial districts to create drug courts says that a “defendant may be transferred to a pretrial or posttrial treatment program for drug abuse…”
Is there some aspect of “drug court” that deals with offenses which aren’t related to drugs? The law creating it says that it’s specifically for substance abuse cases whether actual drug offenses or not.
After calling for some guidance, the Arkansas Supreme Court Administrative Orders were suggested. Administrative Order No. 14.1.C. provides for specialty courts like drug court. “Examples include “drug courts,” “mental health courts,” “veterans courts,” “DWI courts,” “Hope courts,” “smarter sentencing courts,” and “swift courts.” Specialty dockets or programs may be established within a subject-matter division of a circuit court if they are described in the circuit’s administrative plan and approved by the supreme court.”
Is there anything like a pretrial diversion court in Washington County other than Drug Court? Or does Drug Court have a “non-drug related” section? Administrative Order 14 suggests that there should be an “administrative plan.”
Going down the Google rabbit hole, sure enough, one can find Washington/Madison County Fourth Judicial Circuit of Arkansas Amended Administrative Plan Effective January 1, 2015. With regard to Drug Court it provides that the Washington and Madison County Courts are not doing anything out of the ordinary or special in this Court. The only other specialty court in Washington and Madison Counties is a Veteran’s Drug Treatment Court. The Judges put it in writing that their Drug Court is in conformity with state drug court laws as everyone would expect it to be.
The administrative plan answers one of the contentions that “drug court is for any charge.” Surely it is.
**Edit 11/21/2015 at 8:30 a.m.** WholeHogSports quoted the Prosecutor Matt Durrett on Monday. “Drug court is not solely for drug offenses,” Durrett said. “Mainly it’s for first-time, nonviolent offenses.” Many have referred to this quote to say that this court isn’t for substance abuse but for non-violent felony offenses.
It’s very lawyerly wording. “Drug court is not solely for drug offenses.” That’s totally correct BUT… ** End edit **
that’s a far cry from the implication was that someone could go to drug court UNRELATED to a substance abuse problem.
The program is “conducted in conformance with state drug court statutes.” Common sense or experience tells us that addicted people do all sorts of things that are related to drugs, and their offenses aren’t always “drug offenses” like buying, selling, transporting or manufacturing drugs. They might steal to support their addictions. Their addictions might make them careless or unconcerned so that they damage property or hurt someone by accident. The possibilities go on and on.
Yes, someone charged with ANY CHARGE, so long as it’s a felony, it’s non-violent AND it’s related to substance abuse can go to drug court to get treatment and get a break upon successful completion.
If that’s not definitive enough for doubters, a different search reveals Washington/Madison County Drug Treatment Court Drug Treatment Court Program Overview from the Arkansas Legislature website.
It doesn’t get any clearer as to the purpose of Washington County’s Drug Court. It’s there to take on substance abuse to reduce the rate of criminal activity because people who abuse substances tend to do stupid stuff.
Back to the Anton Beard situation…
His placement in Drug Court has one of two obvious possibilities… (1) The case has some involvement with substance abuse or (2) the court is being used in a convenient way.
How would it be convenient? Well, what’s the upside to this for Beard? What’s the upside to others?
With the diversion permissibly being pretrial in Drug Court, then he doesn’t have to be convicted in order to avail himself of the program. Furthermore, the Drug Court proceedings are confidential (as they in part deal with private medical records related to treatment) so there aren’t pesky reporters. Things stay quiet. Apparently a question was asked in a recent legal education class to the individual who is in charge of the day-to-day record keeping for the Arkansas Crime Information Center how a person’s records would be kept if someone was hypothetically charged with counterfeiting and transferred to drug court. If it’s done correctly, apparently the answer is that the arrest wouldn’t be revealed on an Arkansas State Police background check available to the public or most employers. It is available to courts and law enforcement and some others. Lastly, after all is said and done, if Beard completes the program successfully, then he would not have a conviction, his record would be sealed and it would only be available to a limited number of agencies or employers.
This is Beard’s path to make things straight and to avoid the consequence of actions by working to get better. Such programs have places whether related to drugs or not. Anyone with any sense would pull for him to do well and never return to doing what he’s alleged to have done.
However, THIS program is for substance abuse, and there is no general pretrial diversion law.
There’s a part of the story that fans deserve to know for all of the reasons above.
Whether through sweat equity, donating money, buying tickets or licensed gear or sending children to school there, Fans in many respects own the University of Arkansas program and deserve a clear, direct explanation.