DCNews - Justin


CONTENT WARNING:
 This article contains information about humanity, compassion and common sense. This is a story about a young, disabled veteran who fell victim to a bully cop, and Dickinson County's version of injustice.  Those who find those terms objectionable should stop reading here!



EDITOR'S NOTE:  To the "powers that be."  Do not attempt to hold Justin responsible for what I have written here, or retaliate against him in any way.  I was contacted by several people regarding his situation.  I requested the meeting with him.  I am solely responsible for what is written here.  Justin had no role in the preparation of this material, and no editorial control over the content.  There are no "facts" stated in this article that I have not personally verified by viewing the documents in question.  While you may question my conclusions, do not attempt to question the facts.


UPDATE:  This matter has now been fully adjudicated.  Mr. Graham was indeed punished by the court for his courage in standing up for his rights.  He is no longer under any type of court sanction.


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Otto Warmbier was an American college student who died as the result of being held in a North Korean prison and denied medical treatment.  Most Americans were outraged at the treatment, or lack of treatment, that Warmbier received at the hands of the North Koreans, finally resulting in his death. Sadly, we have a similar situation currently happening in Dickinson County, thanks to two judges who believe that they know more than the doctors do, and combined, would likely have a heart smaller than an amoeba.

Justin Graham, whom we shall tell you much more about in this article, is a disabled American veteran, suffering from multiple sclerosis and PTSD; both diagnosis confirmed by a cadre of Veteran's Administration physicians.

While it is Judge Julie LaCost who will ultimately do the dirty work, both she and Judge Christopher Ninomiya have been co-conspirators in this travesty of justice.

Somehow, some way, for some inexplicable reason, Judge LaCost has taken it upon herself to overrule the physicians.  She has apparently decided that she knows more about multiple sclerosis and PTSD than the V.A. doctors, or the two doctors that wrote Justin Graham prescriptions for medical marijuana.

Somehow she seems to have adopted the warped attitude that the best way to treat these diseases is to lock the patient up.  (Hmmm, wonder if that would work for diabetes or cancer?)

Nowhere has it ever been suggested by anyone with more than one firing cerebral neuron, that jail is an appropriate treatment for multiple sclerosis or PTSD.  If Justin were a prisoner of war, these judges would be guilty of violating the
Geneva Conventions.  All of this over a non-working tail light, and a cop who couldn't resist being a bully.


But this is not a story about marijuana.  This is a story about humanity, compassion and common sense.  Should Judge LaCost proceed, as expected, to sentence Justin to a lengthy jail sentence, the outcome could be very similar to the Otto Warmbier case.   Thanks to these two judges, neither of whom has earned the title "honorable" in my opinion, Justin has already been almost totally without the cannabis that he needs to control his condition for seven months.  On one occasion, while on bond, Justin did use cannabis, out of desperation to control his symptoms.   He was tested, got caught, and is now facing possible additional jail time, for using a substance that the voters of the State of Michigan have deemed to be perfectly legal.   Every day that Justin is without the only medication that has helped him, cannabis, his condition will continue to deteriorate, both physically and mentally.  I wonder if Dickinson County's voters will feel as outraged if Justin is wheeled from the jail in a wheelchair, as they felt when Otto Warmbier was.  Sadly, I seriously doubt it.

And please don't come up with this horse-crap about "well, he broke the law."  Otto Warmbier broke North Korean law, and yet no compassionate human being can justify what was done to him.  The same standard applies in this case.  Sometimes, it's the law that's at fault.  Just because it's an American, or a Michigan law, does not make it right.


SOME BACKGROUND

Justin Graham is a young man who wanted to serve his Country, so he enlisted in the military. Justin served four years in the United States Air Force.  But sadly, this isn't a story about his military career.  Any hopes that Justin may have had in that regard were dashed, when he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.  Following that diagnosis, Justin was honorably discharged from the military for medical reasons.

After examinations by Veterans' Administration doctors, Justin was found to be suffering from major depressive disorder, stemming from service-related PTSD, in addition to the earlier diagnosed multiple sclerosis. Following more extensive examinations and evaluations, Justin was granted a 100% disability, on the basis that his disorders would make it highly unlikely that he could gain or hold meaningful employment.


As though his physical and emotional problems were not enough to deal with, Justin has now become a victim of what passes for a criminal justice system in Dickinson County.  But we'll have more on that later.

When we first heard about Justin's case, we requested a meeting so that we could form our own opinion, as well as review the paperwork which we asked him to bring with him. We met at "B's" Cafe for a cup of coffee. I had never met Justin prior to this meeting, so had no idea what to expect.  I found Justin to be a clean-cut, intelligent, responsive, very polite and courteous individual. It was only after this evaluation that I decided to proceed with this article. We applaud Justin for having the courage to tell his story publicly. Justin readily admitted in speaking with us that he didn't expect any of this to help him in any way. His sole purpose is to try to keep this same thing from happening to others who may make the mistake of visiting Dickinson County. All he wants to do is get this over with so that he can return to civilization, in Colorado.


To me, one of the most revealing character traits that I saw in Justin is that in spite of all that he has been through, and all that he is facing, he is just as concerned about what is going to  happen to his "best buddy" Bernie, while he's locked up, as he is about himself.  Justin said that the longest the two have ever been apart is the night that he was incarcerated, all over a defective tail light.  He said that it makes him physically ill to think that he won't see Bernie for many weeks, perhaps months.

After his discharge from the military, Justin's condition continued to degrade, with little help from the VA, other than writing prescriptions for one drug after another. At one time he was taking 15 different prescribed medications.

In 2017, desperate for relief, Justin sought and was able to receive the help he needed to regain a fairly normal life style from a treatment center in Colorado.

Rather than try to describe what transpired next, we have included a letter from that treatment center.
 
 


Let's fast forward to the Fall of last year. Justin had taken a tour of the Country, and was having a great time, until he hit the police state that we know as Dickinson County, his hometown.

Justin had planned on spending a few weeks here before returning to Colorado. Seven months later, he's still here, under the most barbaric, torturous court orders one can imagine.

THE ARREST

It was shortly before Midnight on September 29th of last year. Justin and a friend were returning from a trip to the casino in Bark River, when he was stopped by Dickinson County Sheriff's Deputy John Wyle, because of defective tail lights on his 20 year old truck. Fair enough.

It turns out that Justin had removed a fuse to turn off a defective dome light, not realizing that that same fuse supplied power to the tail lights.

After going through all of the usual paperwork rigormorole, Deputy Wyle told Justin that he was being stopped due to defective tail lights. Not realizing the fuse problem at the time, he got out of the vehicle to see why his tail lights weren't working.

At this point, Deputy Wyle smelled alcohol. Justin readily admitted that he had had three beers over a period of several hours while at the casino. Remember, he was not stopped because of erratic or irresponsible driving, only for defective tail lights.

During the initial interview, Justin told Deputy Wyle that he had been in the military, and that he had been discharged due to a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. When asked if the disease hampered his activities, Justin answered no. As shown in the letter above, medical cannabis had pretty much brought his symptoms under control. Basically, Justin is able to lead a fairly normal life, despite the disease.

However, leading a fairly normal life as a multiple sclerosis patient does not include balancing on one leg. When he was unable to stand on one leg with any degree of stability, and blamed it on the multiple sclerosis, Deputy Wyle immediately jumped to the conclusion that he was lying, because he had earlier said that the symptoms didn't really interfere with his life.

All of the verbal field sobriety tests Justin was able to perform satisfactorily. However, those involving physical dexterity he had problems with, as would anyone suffering from multiple sclerosis.

Now remember, there had been no suggestion that Justin had been driving erratically or irresponsibly. In fact, when field tested for alcohol, at his request, Justin "blew" a .04 reading, half the legal limit for intoxication. But this wasn't about to deter gung-ho Deputy Wyle.   The fact that he had suddenly come to the totally unwarranted conclusion that he had been lied to, apparently caused Deputy Wyle to decide to put Justin "through the wringer."

Following a search of his vehicle, deputies discovered a small glass pipe, with a small amount of residue in the bottom, as well as a small amount of marijuana. Keep in mind that Justin had been living in Colorado, and that he had a valid Colorado medical marijuana card. He also had a Michigan medical marijuana card on his person which was expired, though he was sure that it had been renewed. (He currently does hold a valid Michigan medical marijuana card, based on a physician's prescription)

Now, any police officer with any amount of compassion or common sense would have likely ended this at this point. Justin would have been able to get his tail lights working again and he could have been on his way. No harm, no foul.

But, of course, Deputy Wyle couldn't let that happen. Justin was instead field tested positive for marijuana, (remember, he had a valid Colorado medical marijuana card on his person, as well as a Michigan Medical Marijuana card, which may or may not have been expired) , then taken to Dickinson County Memorial Hospital to have blood drawn; then incarcerated at the County Jail. All of this over a non-working tail light.

I don't want to hear any of the normal B.S. about "Well, he did test positive for THC in his system."  National surveys have shown that one out of five Americans uses cannabis on a fairly regular basis.  My guess is that number would be much higher, if the ever watchful government did not make people fearful of answering honestly.  That means that at least one out of every five drivers would, at almost any time, show THC in their system.

Recent testing, including some done by the State of Michigan and made public in a report by the Governor, has shown conclusively that in an experienced user, marijuana has little if any effects on physical dexterity.

I will conclude this first part of this story with this: I have no idea who this Deputy Wyle is. Further, I certainly have no desire to know who he is. Suffice it to say that Dickinson County must be almost completely devoid of serious crime, if this Deputy is this hard up for a "bust."

This cop had probable cause to stop Justin because of a defective tail light.  Nothing that occurred gave him probable cause to destroy Justin's life.

THE PROSECUTION

Next comes the Prosecutor's office; and what happened there was pretty predictable. Justin was of course charged with far more than the circumstances warranted.  There's likely no way on Earth that the evidence or the circumstances would have caused a jury to find him guilty of the overcharges. But it puts the defendant in the position of having little choice but to plead guilty to lesser charges, whether guilty of those charges of not. This is standard operating procedure for Prosecutor's offices nation-wide.  Don't give the defendant the practical option of having their case heard by a jury.  Pile on enough charges so that a trial by jury becomes prohibitively expensive.  But the problem is especially bad here in Dickinson County, and has been for years. And it's all about: "We have to keep the revenue stream flowing."

To be clear, the injustices being imposed on Justin could have ended when the charges got to the Prosecutor's office. They have what is called "prosecutorial discretion." Of course, dropping charges doesn't make any money for the County.

It should be noted that a high percentage of cases in which the defendant has taken their case to trial in Dickinson County have ended in acquittal. However, few can afford the cost of going to trial, and public defenders seldom, if ever, are willing to devote the time it takes to take a case to trial. In Justin's case, as a disabled veteran, there is no way that he can afford to hire private counsel; thus he is left totally at the mercy of a system which does not know the meaning of the word mercy.

THE COURTS:

When Justin's case first got to Court, the Judges had the power to at least moderate the situation. Of course, that wasn't going to happen. Even after being provided with documentation from the Veterans' Administration regarding Justin's diagnosis, both Judges, Circuit Judge Ninomiya and District Judge LaCost, proceeded to show all the mercy and compassion of Attila the Hun. In fact, LaCost apparently appointed herself as a physician, completely ignoring the diagnosis of the physicians at the Veterans' Administration, as well as the opinions of both physicians who had issued Justin medical marijuana prescriptions. "Doctor" LaCost, in a flash diagnosis from the bench, decided that Justin did not need medical marijuana . We would be derelict if we did not mention, that LaCost has been aware of the letter from the Colorado treatment center since the start of these proceedings.  She is well aware of Justin's condition before the treatment there began, and equally aware of the severe damage that lack of treatment is likely to cause him.  Yet she plowed ahead, substituting her totally unqualified judgment, for that of certified experts in this field.

(Try as we might, we could find nothing in LaCost's biography to indicate that she ever set foot in a medical school, let alone obtained a medical degree.)

We're not going to bore you with details of all nine of the Court actions that have taken place since September 29th. Most of it would have little meaning so far as we're concerned, and are public record for anyone who wants to explore them. This is not about the fact that Justin may have stumbled over some of the many absurd roadblocks that have been put in his way since his arrest. This is again about humanity, compassion and common sense, none of which, sadly, are part of the Dickinson County Judicial System's vocabulary.

The bond conditions imposed on Justin are so draconian; so absolutely lacking in compassion, humanity and common sense, that they should disqualify either of these Judges from ever sitting on another case. All of this over a non-working tail light.

At present, Justin has three choices: Perhaps go back to the V.A. and get another dozen or so prescriptions, none of which work, and all of which have their own side-effects; try to sneak marijuana or marijuana related products to keep his symptoms at bay, facing another possible immediate detention if he is tested; or follow "Doctor" LaCost's orders and do nothing, while watching his condition deteriorate until he is able to return to Colorado. (Remember, Justin had been a resident of Colorado, where he has been involved with charitable work helping others through the same problems he has suffered. He arrived on vacation, and will likely leave on probation, if he is ever allowed to leave.)

There is certainly plenty of blame to go around here.  The prosecutor's and the courts did what they always do.  They went for the jugular. 

But this whole thing should have never gotten to this stage.  The whole thing should have stopped with a warning ticket for a defective tail light, if even that was in order; since the tail light  could have easily been repaired on the spot.

The bulk of the blame for what has happened to Justin has to be clearly placed on the shoulders of the one individual who had the power to see to it that this didn't happen: Deputy John Wyle.

Instead of performing like a compassionate human being with a bit of common sense, this cop, apparently too hungry for an arrest to consider anything else, has put this young man through seven months of hell.

There is absolutely nothing to justify what he started.

Justin presented no danger to himself or anyone else, and if there was a misunderstanding about his medical marijuana, card, that sure as hell did not merit this.  This is the type of cop that will not only perpetuate, but accelerate Dickinson County's downward spiral.   It's a shame that bullies like this are permitted to wear badges.  What ever happened to the days when County Sheriff's deputies were known as "peace officers?"

Every resident of Dickinson County should be profoundly ashamed that this is being done in their names. We have heard of many travesties of justice; but this is the first that we have chosen to write about because it is the first that we have been able to document. Dickinson County voters should know that this type of thing reportedly goes on in Dickinson County all the time.

In Justin's case, he is terrified that he could end up leaving the Dickinson County Jail in a wheelchair, or worse.  The mental anguish that this man is being put through amounts to torture.

If this is how the voters and residents of Dickinson County think that justice should be administered, then you deserve to watch your community disintegrate around you.

This whole thing stinks to high heaven. Unless or until someone wakes up, promising young people like Justin will continue to flee from the area, as Dickinson County continues to age and deteriorate.

Again, we applaud Justin Graham for having the courage to step forward and tell his story, knowing full well that there is a certain element that will be totally unsympathetic to his plight.  We thank him for putting a face to a story that we have been trying to tell for the past three years.  It is our hope that he will be able to return to civilization in Colorado soon, so that his health does not continue to be a victim of the malpractice conducted by Judges/Doctors Christopher Ninomiya and Julie LaCost.

It would certainly be nice if people like Justin were able to stay in Dickinson County and receive the type of humane treatment they deserve, without being bullied by cops.  And while things may change at some point, Justin sees no future for himself in Dickinson County, a sentiment expressed by far too many young people.  His current plans are for him to return to Colorado, as soon as conditions permit.

In the final analysis, it appears that the only thing Justin really did wrong, as have so many others, is show up in the wrong place (Dickinson County), at the wrong time (anytime).

This is not about the law.  This zero tolerance, by the book, letter of the law, hyperactive law enforcement B.S. that prevails in Dickinson County is draining this community of its lifeblood. This is about common sense, humanity, and compassion for your fellow human beings.  Until we bring those traits back, there is little hope for the future.

Let's make it perfectly clear for those who have not yet realized, that all of the "crimes" that Justin supposedly committed, and is about to be sentenced for, involve cannabis.  This is a substance which, by will of the voters, is now absolutely legal in Michigan.  However, those who refuse to accept the will of the voters will try to the last minute to enforce their bigoted, ignorant beliefs.

If any of these local officials had any respect for the will of the voters, any common sense, or sense of compassion or humanity, they would no longer be proceeding with any marijuana related charges against anyone, and certainly not for so miniscule an "infraction" as this.

Justin will appear before District Judge LaCost at 9:30 on Thursday morning, April 25th.  The decent thing for the judge to do at this point would be to apologize to Justin for what he has been put through, and let him go on his way.  However, she is expected instead to hand down a lengthy jail sentence, in addition to fines and costs of nearly $1,600, which it will be very difficult for Justin to pay, likely extending his probationary period.  During this entire period he will almost certainly be ordered to refrain from the use of perfectly legal cannabis, which is the only thing to date that has brought relief for his multiple sclerosis symptoms.   All of this, if things go as expected, is going to have an absolutely devastating effect on this young veteran's life, both physically and emotionally.  Nothing justifies this.   We hope, perhaps beyond hope, that Judge LaCost will have a change of heart, do the right thing, and end this torment on the 25th, perhaps giving a little less credence to the saying:

"Dickinson County - Arrive on vacation - Leave on probation!"

I am sure there are those of you out there who think that all of this is perfectly OK.

PLEASE LOG OUT - GO SOMEWHERE ELSE! 

Frankly, you're not the type of person that we want logging into our sites.  You're not just part of the problem; you are the problem.

Perhaps Kim Jong-Un has a website that would be better suited to your way of thinking.

RELATED STORIES:

http://www.dickinsoncounty.news/042419_justin.htm
http://www.dickinsoncounty.news/042519_justin.htm
http://www.dickinsoncounty.news/042619_justinsstory.htm



Editorial Commentary by DCNews Online Editor, Dave Lee

editor@dickinsoncounty.news
 
 




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