A Baldwin County judge recently allowed an accused child sex abuser to have his case considered for adjudication in veterans court, where eligible defendants typically enter a plea, then undergo treatment and monitoring before having their charges dismissed.
Baldwin County Veterans Court was created in 2014 by Presiding District Judge Michelle Thomason and generally caters to veterans with misdemeanor charges — often alcohol- or drug-related — and those with no significant criminal record.
David Isaac Dill, 42, of Foley, has been held in the Baldwin County Corrections Center since March after being charged with rape, sodomy, incest and sex abuse. Court records indicate the alleged victim in his case was a female between the ages of 12 and 16 years old.
In a letter received by the court Oct. 21, Dill wrote Baldwin County District Court Judge Bill Scully to note he is a disabled and retired Marine of three years with an honorable discharge, while he also requested his case be placed in veterans court. On Oct. 26, Scully approved the transfer and four days later, Thomason scheduled a Nov. 24 hearing for the case in veterans court.
But responding to questions about the proposed transfer last week, Assistant District Attorney John Oxford said, “obviously, [Dill] is not eligible for veterans court treatment or to participate in the program due to the nature of his offenses.”
While he couldn’t speak for the judicial orders or to the particular circumstances of this case, Oxford said “it’s kind of a policy among judges” to transfer defendants to Judge Thomason’s docket if they request to be considered for veterans court, regardless of their charges. There, eligibility is considered by Thomason and a panel that includes attorneys, someone from the law enforcement community, a licensed counselor and a representative of the Department of Veterans Affairs. But ultimately, Oxford added, the District Attorney’s (DA) Office determines who is eligible to participate in veterans court.
Unlike the DA’s Office independently identifying misdemeanor drug cases, which they can divert to drug court, Oxford said, “veterans … if they don’t tell us, we don’t know. Sometimes if I know they’re a vet, or if their attorney reaches out to me, we’ll refer them to veterans court to take a look and see if they could benefit from what’s offered. But specifically for [Dill], it’s a no-go.”
The hearing set today was “purely mechanics,” he added.
Reached by email, Scully acknowledged the “very serious offenses” Dill is facing, but said he couldn’t comment on the case. Thomason reached out to Lagniappe today to emphasize that although Dill is not eligible for the veterans court program, it is an unwritten policy to refer veterans to the court to evaluate their case and connect them with resources in the community.
“We have a protocol to make sure no vets slip through cracks,” Thomason said. “We try to catch as many as we can who have been arrested to see if they are eligible for veterans treatment court or treating vets for issues related to their service that caused them to get in trouble with law.”
Thomason said as a separation of powers, judges cannot decide whether defendants are eligible for pretrial diversion programs, but prosecutors can. While Dill was advised he was not eligible, he was connected with a Veterans Justice Outreach (VJO) coordinator who may assist him with ancillary issues going forward.
Thomason said the 18-24 month veterans court program has had 71 graduates since it began in 2013.
Meanwhile, Dill’s case is still pending a grand jury review and if indicted, will likely be transferred to Circuit Court, Oxford said.
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