3 graduate from local drug court
By JOHN BRANNON
Messenger Staff Reporter
Among some officers of the law, this conviction: that Jeremy Essary of Greenfield would graduate from the local drug court program when “pigs fly.”
Friday morning, at the Obion County Courthouse, Weakley County General Sessions Judge Tommy Moore sported a tie dotted with colorful pigs with wings.
About 9:30 a.m., Moore stood center-stage in the Circuit Court courtroom and addressed a crowd of about 35. The occasion at hand: a formal graduation ceremony for the 27th Judicial District drug court program.
Bad boy Essary, whom Moore characterized as a “hard core person,” was in the audience.
“You’ve heard the expression, ‘when pigs fly,’” Moore said. “A lot of the law enforcement people in our county said, ‘Don’t let that young man into the program. He’ll never make it, he’ll never change, he’ll never be any different.’
“Well, pigs fly today.”
Indeed, they did. Essary was one of three formally recognized for having completed the arduous rehabilitation program. Jeff Roberson, 22, of Rives, and Josh McElrath, 24, of Union City are the two others.
The crowd in the courtroom included other participants in the program; family members; and drug court officials such as Circuit Judge Bill Acree Jr., District Attorney General Tommy Thomas, Weakley County Sheriff Mike Wilson, Obion County Sheriff Jerry Vastbinder and public defender Joe Atnip of Weakley County.
The 27th Judicial District is comprised of Obion and Weakley counties.
According to Acree, a total of 61 people from Obion and Weakley counties have graduated from the program since it was established in December 2002.
“I want to commend those of you who graduated,” Acree said. “You’ve come a long way. I hope you’ll continue to be a role model for people in the program.”
To be admitted to the drug court program, one must have been convicted of a nonviolent felony crime and must formally apply to a steering committee. If selected, one remains on probation until he or she completes the program, which takes a year to 18 months. Court ordered probation still applies for a certain period even upon satisfactory completion of the program.
Selection for participation in the program gives convicted felons a chance to redeem themselves without having to serve hard time behind bars.
Essary faced a nine-year sentence in state prison for conviction of possession and intent to sell illegal drugs. McElrath faced eight years for possession and sale. Roberson faced eight years for burglary and theft.
Essary entered the program in December 2006, McElrath in November 2006 and Roberson in September 2006.
“We congratulate the three of you,” Moore said. “You’re working on a new journey in life. I hope your life is going to be much better than ever before and much longer and happier than it was before.
“You need to feel as lucky as I do, that I’m alive and have another day of opportunity to make a difference in my own life, in the lives of other people and in the community. And instead of people who commit crimes, that you’ll be people who are productive for society and actually do something to benefit society and your families.
“We each have a life. We ought to live it well. I think what you have done by succeeding in this program, you’re beginning to show your families and yourselves that you’re going to try to live the rest of your lives well. I hope you do.”
Interviewed after the ceremony, Wilson said he supports the drug court program 100 percent. “Incarceration is a good deterrent. For some, it takes just one (trip) to jail. They’ll say, ‘I’m never going to come back here again.’
“But there are those that jail is not going to change. You’ve got to change their attitudes. This program does that. Their purpose is to change. It’s an opportunity for those who want to change to get the help needed to make the change.
“There is a lot of good being done,” he said.
Published in The Messenger 5.26.08