• Men get unique sentence for violating probation, lying about military service

    By: Natalie Dreier, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

    Updated:

    A pair of Montana men will have an interesting sentence after violating parole. 

    Troy Allan Nelson and Ryan Patrick Morris both claimed to be veterans when they in fact never served their country to be able to have their cases heard in Veterans Court, The Associated Press reported

    Montana has a Veterans Court system that includes treatment plans and takes potential post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, anger issues and substance abuse, into consideration when accused of a crime.

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    Morris was on probation after being convicted of felony burglary for stealing items his landlord's garage in 2016 , the AP reported.

    Morris had told the court said he served seven combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and was injured by an improvised explosive device, qualifying his case for the state's Veterans Court system, the AP reported.

    His father had told the court that his son never served, despite trying to sign up for the military, the newspaper reported in 2016.

    Morris also admitted he had lied about the service, The GreatFalls Tribune reported three years ago.

    That's when District Judge Greg Pinski found Morris in contempt, sentencing him to 441 hours of community service, one hour for each Montanan killed in service to the country since the Korean War. He only did 10 hours, the AP reported.

    Morris told the judge he couldn't do all of the community service hours and still work, the Tribune reported this week.

    As for Nelson, he had been in the Veterans Treatment Court before his claims were discovered, CNN reported.

    Nelson was accused last year of forgery and elder abuse, as well as burglary, the Tribune reported.

    Nelson though appeared before Pinski after being accused of testing positive for drugs, not appearing for court, quitting his job and cutting off his GPS monitor, the newspaper reported.

    He was given five years behind bars on drug possession conviction, according to the AP.

    Both received suspended sentence for some of their prison time. They will be eligible for parole eventually, but only if they meet certain unusual conditions. 

    Pinski said Morris' and Nelson's lies were a case of stolen valor, but he cannot have the men charged by the state since the Stolen Valor Act of 2013 declares it a federal crime, the Great Falls Tribune reported.

    So as punishment for claiming they had military service, Pinski ordered each Nelson and Morris to write out the names of all Americans killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The names total 6,756, CNN reported

    They also have to copy the obituaries of the 40 service members from Montana who were killed in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as write apology letters to veterans organizations admitting to lying about military service and why they did it. 

    Morris and Nelson also have to serve 441 hours of community service each. And on every Memorial Day and Veterans Day, during the time of their suspended sentence, each man must stand at the Montana Veterans Memorial for eight hours with a sign that says, "I am a liar. I am not a veteran. I stole valor. I have dishonored all veterans," the Tribune reported.

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