Judge Spends Night in Jail With Troubled Vet

He didn't want man he sentenced to suffer alone
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 23, 2016 8:38 AM CDT
Judge Spends Night in Jail With Troubled Vet
"They take me to the cell, and I'm sitting on my bunk. And, then, in walks the judge."   (Shutterstock)

An Afghanistan vet sentenced to a night in jail for a probation violation found himself with an unusual cellmate for the night: the judge who sentenced him. District Court Judge Lou Olivera, who runs a special treatment court for troubled veterans in North Carolina, tells ABC 11 that while former Green Beret Sgt Joe Serna had to be held accountable for lying about a urine test, he worried about what effect a night alone in a cell might have on the vet, who served three tours of duty in Afghanistan and suffers from PTSD. "When Joe first came to turn himself in, he was trembling," Olivera, a fellow vet who served in the Gulf War, tells the Fayetteville Observer. "I decided that I'd spend the night serving with him."

The jailer brought in extra mats so that the judge could sleep on the floor of the one-bunk cell. Serna, who ended up in the treatment court after struggles with alcohol and a DWI charge, says he was amazed when he realized the judge was going to stay the night. They spent the night talking about their families and their military service. "It was more of a father-son conversation as opposed to a judge talking to someone and sentencing them," Serna tells WRAL. "It was personal." Olivera says his court is like a "family" and he would do the same to help other vets in the program. "They have worn the uniform and we know they can be contributing members of society," he says. "We just want to get them back there." (This group of wounded vets is helping law enforcement hunt child predators.)

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