Probation appeal denied PDF Print E-mail
Written by SUE BOTSFORD, Contributing Writer   
Monday, April 09, 2007

PLATTSBURGH — The revocation of probation and sentencing of a man in Franklin County Court in May 2006 has been affirmed.
Donald J. Walker, 37, was sentenced April 25, 2005, after he pleaded guilty to his fifth conviction of driving while intoxicated.
Among the provisions of his five-year probation on that felony charge was one that ordered he abstain from the purchase of alcohol or illegal drugs and that he successfully undergo a substance-abuse evaluation.
He violated those terms by testing positive for marijuana and cocaine in December 2005, being observed by his probation officer buying alcohol and failing to attend at least three scheduled substance-abuse evaluations.
Walker asked that rather than going to prison he be allowed to undergo inpatient treatment at St. Joseph's Rehabilitation Center in Saranac Lake. Sentencing was adjourned pending successful completion of inpatient and after-care treatment.
Walker was admitted to St. Joseph's April 12, 2006. Against the recommendation of his treatment provider, he left the facility three days later.
As a result, his probation was revoked, and he was sentenced to 14 to 42 months in prison.
On his appeal, Walker claimed that his placement in a religious-based substance-abuse treatment program violated his First Amendment rights.
The Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court disagreed.
Although Walker was saying now he was unaware of the allegedly religious nature of the program, a review of the record shows he specifically asked to undergo treatment at St. Joseph's, the court said.
"Indeed, while admitting violating his probation, he expressed an eagerness to be 'evaluated for inpatient at St. Joe's ... to end the cycle (of addiction) that he seems to be on,'" the ruling says.
"Despite his subsequent dissatisfaction with the treatment practices at St. Joseph's, we have no difficulty concluding that County Court, having finally exhausted its patience as regard to this defendant, did not abuse its discretion in sentencing him to a term of imprisonment."
According to Department of Corrections records, Walker is serving his time at Gowanda, a medium-security correctional facility in western New York.
His earliest release date is May 2008.



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