Ohio Firefighter Receives Treatment In Place of Conviction

Courtesy of American Addiction Centers
Earlier this month, former American Township, OH, fire lieutenant Jason Belton pleaded guilty to stealing more than $14,000 from his township’s fire union fund. Instead of facing up to 18 months in prison for a grand theft felony charge, Belton was granted counseling and intervention for mental illness treatment.
According to LimaOhio.com, “…psychologist Stephen Ross testified Belton suffers from bipolar disorder, a form of post-traumatic stress disorder related to the horrors he witnessed as a firefighter and an impulse control disorder.”
While prosecutor Juergen Waldick disputed the notion of Belton’s illness, Judge Richard Warren said he would take a chance on Belton, and allowed him counseling for shopping/spending addiction treatment. If he fails to comply, however, Belton could face prison.
The PTSD Connection
Ross’ statements of bipolar disorder and PTSD make all the difference in this case. We already know that PTSD plagues the firefighter community, and the stigmas attached can prevent those who suffer from receiving the help they so desperately need. As a result, PTSD can reveal itself in strange ways. For Belton, his financial vices came to surface. For example, he once bought 30 guitars he displayed in his home but never used.
On the other hand, Ross told prosecution he could not tie all of Belton’s purchases to mental illness, and that not all people who overspend suffer from mental illness. Opponents of the verdict feel that stealing is worthy of jail time, no matter the roots of its cause.
Treatment and rehabilitation are, however, necessary in this case.
Belton has paid back the money to the fire department and has resigned as American Township fire lieutenant. Now, as part of his treatment plan, Belton is required to receive mental health counseling, meet with a mental health court judge, attend a weekly support meeting, continue taking medications, and remain on probation.
Was the judge right in “taking a chance” on Belton, or should Belton have received prison time for his fire union theft? Weigh in at www.facebook.com/AmericanAddictionCenters.