A North Carolina judge who sentenced a veteran to 24 hours in jail for a probation violation was worried how the time alone would affect the defendant’s post-traumatic stress disorder. So the judge served the time with him.
For most of the night, Judge Lou Olivera and defendant Joseph Serna talked about their military service, report the Fayetteville Observer, WRAL, ABC11 and the Washington Post. “He stepped in there for me,” Serna told the Observer.
Olivera is a Gulf War veteran who presides over veterans court in Cumberland County. Serna is a Special Forces Green Beret sergeant who served in Afghanistan.
Serna had been charged with driving while intoxicated. He was sentenced to the 24-hour jail stint after admitting to Olivera that he didn’t tell the truth about his latest urinalysis test.
Olivera saw Serna trembling when he turned himself in to serve the sentence, and that’s when Olivera decided to serve the time with him.
“I thought about a story that I once read,” Olivera told the Observer. “It talked about a soldier with PTSD in a hole. … A family member, a therapist and a friend all throw down a rope to help the veteran suffering. Finally, a fellow veteran climbs into the hole with him. The soldier suffering with PTSD asks, ‘Why are you down here?’ The fellow veteran replied, ‘I am here to climb out with you.’”
In this video, Olivera describes the Cumberland County veterans court program, and why it’s so important to the community.