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Iraq Vet Jailed For Angry Voicemails Will Remain Locked Up

Allaine Benson holds her husband Erik Benson in this undated photo.
Photo provided Allaine Benson
Allaine Benson holds her husband Erik Benson in this undated photo.

A federal judge ruled that an Iraq War veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder will stay in federal lockup, after being taken into custody after Thanksgiving.

Erik Benson has been in custody since he was accused of leaving a series of angry voicemails on his psychiatrist’s answering machine during the Thanksgiving weekend. The VA was already pressing charges against the Benson for leaving other angry voicemails for VA providers.

His wife, Allaine Benson, said her husband needs to get back into treatment.

“It’s so hard for people to understand what he does. He has TBI and PTSD and I just want to have proper treatment for him,” said Allaine Benson.

Eric Benson, an Army master sergeant, was medically retired in 2010, after being injured in Iraq.

Federal Magistrate Bernard Skomal ruled Jan. 10 that Eric Benson will remain in custody, at least for now. His attorney, Alex Fuqua, said the vet had been seeking treatment at the VA when he was arrested by the U.S. Marshals on Nov. 27.

RELATED: Iraq War Veteran Will Spend Holidays Behind Bars

“He was going through the admissions process at that time and to be simply ripped away is horrible,” Fuqua said.

The VA San Diego will not comment on the federal court case.

“We will vigorously prosecute threats of violence against federal employees,” said U.S. Attorney Adam Braverman, in a statement issued just before Christmas.

Starting just after Thanksgiving, Eric Benson began leaving voicemails on the work line for his private psychiatrist, demanding medication and treatment for his anxiety. The psychiatrist terminated Benson from his practice.

The defense said the messages were a cry for help. Eric Benson, a former Army special operations soldier, had not committed an act of violence related to the any of the messages, either recently or in the past. The judge said he was concerned Eric Benson could be a danger to himself or the community.

“This is a pattern of conduct and not isolated and it’s likely to continue,” Skomal said.

This is the second time the VA has pressed charges against Benson for leaving angry voicemails. In 2016, he was diverted to veterans’ treatment court and treated at the VA’s Aspire Center.

The VA has rated Benson 100 percent disabled for PTSD. Judge Skomal said that his condition is responsible for most, if not all, of the Iraq War vet’s actions. The judge said he would entertain a motion to have Benson released to inpatient treatment, if the VA, or another program, offers to admit him. No trial date has been set.

Iraq Vet Jailed For Angry Voicemails Will Remain Locked Up
Erik Benson was medically retired in 2010 for injuries he suffered in Iraq. He has been locked up since late November when the VA pressed charges after he allegedly left angry voicemails for his provider. You can hear this story and other local news every morning by subscribing to San Diego Stories, KPBS’ daily news podcast. Subscribe via iTunes, Google Play or your favorite podcatcher.