Veterans Court Celebrates Four Graduates


Deputy County Attorney Jeff Lux, left, reads a court order to dismiss charges against Joshua Weinfurter, right, as Judge James T. Gleason listens Wednesday at a graduation ceremony for the Douglas County Veterans Treatment Court. The ceremony was held in the legislative chambers of the Omaha-Douglas Civic Center. (Photo by Scott Stewart)
By 
Scott Stewart
The Daily Record

Joshua Weinfurter stood at a podium a moment after having felony criminal charges dismissed and shared his story of how that arrest changed his life forever.

Weinfurter, one of four members of the third graduating class of the Douglas County Veterans Treatment Court, said he got a second-chance following the biggest transformation in his life.

“I should be in prison,” he said. “When I got arrested, I remember that gut-wrenching feeling that I was going to prison.”

Weinfurter said he faced severe charges, and he decided that it was time to fight an addiction to methamphetamine and start working to improve his life.

Since then, his transformation has been “incredibly impressive,” said Scott Carlson, supervision officer for the Douglas County Veterans Treatment Court.

“He’s earned the right to stand in front of you all today with pride and honor as he graduates,” Carlson said last Wednesday afternoon, as the four most recent graduates of the court were recognized during a ceremony at the Omaha-Douglas Civic Center.

Three of the graduates had their charges dismissed, while one had his reduced. Each discussed their journey and thanked their veteran mentors, who volunteered to support their rehabilitation efforts.

Vicente Buenrostro said it’s been a long two and a half years as he’s worked through the court program. He was in a dark place in his life, but he said he didn’t want to know he passed up a chance to turn around his life.

“I’m glad I never gave up,” Buenrostro said. “I’m just really happy to be here and moving forward with my life and continuing to be a good person and a role model. I don’t have any fancy words, but I’m just really happy to be here, and thank you all for not giving up on me.”

Judge James T. Gleason, who oversees the veterans court said the ceremony was an opportunity to publicly acknowledge the graduates’ honor was restored.

“The Veterans Treatment Court functions and is successful due to the joint efforts of the staff, volunteer mentors and, most particularly, from participants themselves,” Gleason said.

Justin Polland, a member of the court’s first graduating class, asked for a moment of silence to remember Judge Mark Ashford, who founded the program and saw its first class of graduates shortly before dying suddenly last year.

Polland told the new graduates that they’ll still face challenges in the future but encouraged them to make use of their freedom.

“There are two different ways you can live in life,” Polland said. “You can live with a sense of entitlement – and assume everything is just going to come your way and it’s supposed to and you earned it and it’s yours – or gratitude. There’s no room for both.”

The Douglas County Veterans Treatment Court operates under a team approach. A judge works alongside prosecutors, defense counsel, community supervision officers, law enforcement and treatment providers to design an individualized program for each court participant.

Compliance with treatment and court orders is verified through frequent alcohol and drug testing, close community supervision and interaction with the judge during non-adversarial court hearings. It also includes home visits and intensive case management.

The court uses the same model as other problem-solving courts in Nebraska. It was established in November 2016 to work with veterans who have entered a plea before the court and who delay their sentencing until they complete the veterans court program.

Graduates have charges dismissed or reduced, and those who fail to complete the program face a traditional sentencing.

For more information on the court, visit dc4dc.com/douglas-county-veterans-treatment-court.

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