A judge last week denied Sean Worsley’s request to be transferred to a community corrections program instead of prison for an August 2016 arrest for marijuana possession. Worsley is facing a five-year sentence in the Alabama Department of Corrections after his probation was revoked in April.
“Because the Defendant has fled this jurisdiction both times he was released, failed to comply with any condition of bond or probation and has 5 felony convictions, including one he received while on probation from this Court’s sentence, this Court finds that the Defendant is not a suitable candidate for placement in the Community Corrections Program,” the judge wrote. “Therefore, the request is DENIED.”
Pickens County District Attorney Andy Hamlin opposed the diversion to community corrections citing Worsley’s past felony convictions.
“Remember, at the time of the plea, he was a four-time convicted felon,” Hamlin told Nelson in an email. “Given his circumstances and military service, I used discretion and asked the court to put him on probation. I must apply the law consistently and fairly with every case that comes through my office. Any special treatment to Mr. Worsley would have set a precedent that would have been unfair to others with similar histories and charges.”
Sean Worsley is a disabled, Black Iraq War veteran who lived in Arizona; but stopped to get gas in Gordo in Pickens County. After a search of his vehicle by the Gordo Police, found marijuana, Worsley was arrested. A valid Medical Marijuana card from Arizona was not accepted as a defense by the District Attorney or the Alabama Court.
A veterans counselor told the Alabama Political Reporter that many veterans use marijuana to self-medicate their PTSD symptoms.
Following reporting by Alabama Appleseed’s Leah Nelson, the Alabama Political Reporter and the Washington Post among others the case drew much wider attention.
More than 2,000 people donated a total of nearly $100,000 dollars online. The money was used to pay Pickens County all of the $3,858.40 in fines, fees, and court costs that Pickens County claimed that Worsley owed. Part of that money was used to help Eboni Worsley move to Alabama and rent a home in Birmingham.
The judge who oversees the Veteran’s Treatment Court in Birmingham has agreed to supervise Worsley if he were transferred to Community Corrections. The Alabama Department of Corrections deemed Worsley suitable for transfer. An attorney submitted the request and supporting documentation pro bono. All the request to transfer Worsley to Community Corrections with the Veteran’s Treatment County was approved from the Judge who sentenced Worsley. That was denied on Thursday.
State Representative Neil Rafferty (D-Birmingham) has rallied to Worsley’s causes as have a diverse group of advocates in an effort to get Worsley out of jail where he has been since March. Charles Koch; a retired federal magistrate judge has advocated for Worsley’s release as well as medical marijuana advocates, veterans groups, human rights groups, and the Alabama Appleseed Center for Law & Justice.
A protest rally was even held in front of the Pickens County Jail to express support for Worsley by his advocates.
Worsley is still in the Pickens County Jail where he has been since March serving his sentence, but he could be transferred to Alabama’s badly overcrowded and extremely dangerous state prison system at any time. His wife Eboni and his mother have expressed fears for his health and safety. The Department of Justice has called Alabama’s prison system the most dangerous in America.