Purple Heart recipient, Iraq war veteran, and black man Sean Worsley has seemingly fallen victim to the fallacy of the United States Justice Department and apparent racist history when it comes marijuana.
An Alabama circuit judge, Samuel Junkin, denied the release of Worsley to community services even after offers of probono PTSD therapy, housing and a litany of community services made available to the vet in advance of the ruling. Worsley had been arrested for marijuana possession while driving through Alabama. The drug had been prescribed to him legally in Arizona, however, Alabama laws do not legally recognize marijuana in the state.
According to reports, at the time of the initial arrest Worsley and his wife, Eboni, were driving through Alabama on their way to North Carolina to help his mother repair extensive hurricane damage to her home. Reports go on to add that Gordo Police Officer Carl Abramo, who has since left the force, noticed Sean playing air guitar and joking around with Eboni and he approached to ask them to turn down their music to which the two complied immediately, but the officer smelled cannabis.
Expecting that his state-issued card protected him, Sean informed the inquiring officer of his veteran status and that he did have medically prescribed cannabis in the car. Abramo informed Worsley that Alabama does not have legalized marijuana before placing him into custody.
Nearly a year after these events, the bail bondsman called back with a dire message: The Pickens County judge was revoking bonds on all his cases. That meant they had to rush back from Arizona, he told the couple, or they would be charged with failing to appear in court.
In Junkin’s denial of the motion he cited issues with Worsley’s pre-incarceration probation and felony charges.
In his letter denying the request for community supervision, Junkin wrote that Worsley “fled this jurisdiction both times he was released, failed to comply with any condition of bond or probation and has five felony convictions,” according to court documents.
In a report from the Alabama Appleseed, a criminal justice organization, Eboni and Sean were separated where Eboni insisted to authorities that her husband’s disabilities meant he needed a legal guardian to help make him an informed decision.
“They told him that if he didn’t sign the plea agreement that we would have to stay incarcerated until December and that they would charge me with the same charges as they charged him,” Eboni told Leah Nelson, the Alabama Appleseed researcher writing the report.
It was that threat that caused Worsley to give in and sign the plea agreement: 60 months of probation, drug treatment and thousands of dollars in fines.
“I feel like I’m being thrown away by a country I went and served for,” Sean wrote in a letter from the Pickens County Jail to Alabama Appleseed. “I feel like I lost parts of me in Iraq, parts of my spirit and soul that I can’t ever get back.”
The State of Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in a letter to Junkin, promised counsel to advocate for the Worsleys to the federal VA. Also submitted to Junkin were receipts for Worsley’s court costs and fees, which showed a balance paid in full.
Eboni has updated a GoFundMe page for Sean to afford rent and legal counsel. Beyond the immediate existential needs. She has expressed worry about Sean’s mental and physical health citing a noticeable deterioration in health during his incarceration.
She encourages people to write him to help him combat his depression during this extremely tough time.