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Vet With PSTD May Spend A Year In Jail Awaiting Trial

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

Credit: Photo provided Allaine Benson

Above: Allaine Benson holds her husband Erik Benson in this undated photo.

A combat veteran with PTSD may spend more than a year in jail, awaiting trial, after federal prosecutors decide this week to retry Erik Benson a second time for making phone threats.

Benson remains in jail after being arrested on Nov. 27 and held on two counts of leaving threatening voicemails at the office of his private psychologist, who was funded through the Veterans Health Administration.

Listen to this story by Steve Walsh.

He acted out when he tried to get his provider to change the prescription he was taking to treat his post-traumatic stress disorder, said his wife Allaine Benson. She’s been taking care of their two young sons since her husband was taken into custody.

“With the support of my work, friends, I’m getting through it,” she said. “I mean the best we can every day.”

Benson was wounded by a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2010. He has received a 100 percent disability rating for PTSD from the VA. VA doctors also testified against him at his recent trial. After the jury could not reach a unanimous decision on either charge in his case last week, the US Attorneys office in San Diego announced in court Tuesday that they plan to try Benson a second time.

“They’re really running the show at this point,” said Alex Fuqua, Benson's attorney. “There is really only so much we can do for Erik. We are really at the mercy of the government.”

Psychologist Cynthia Boyd testified for Benson during his trial. The forensic neuropsychologist has also testified in other cases involving vets with PTSD.

“This is the lowest level case I’ve ever been retained on,” she said. “I’m usually retained on cases where returning vets commit much more serious crimes, up to murder.”

Rather than try Benson a second time, he needs to be released to a treatment program, she said. US Attorney's office in San Diego did not comment on the decision to retry Benson.

In a written response, Kelly Thornton, spokesperson for the US Attorney in San Diego, referred to a judge order from September which stated Benson remains a threat to himself and others.

In 2016, Benson became the first veteran to participate in veterans treatment court in the federal system in San Diego County, after leaving messages on voicemail with his VA provider.

Before being arrested in November, Benson left threatening voicemails with his new provider in June 2018. All of the charges stem from voice mails. Benson is not accused of being physically or verbally abusive in person, including when he was taken into custody after arriving at the VA Hospital in LaJolla.

At the moment, the date for his next trial date is set for Jan. 6, 2019.


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Steve Walsh
Military Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover military and veterans issues for KPBS and American Homefront, a partnership of public radio stations and NPR. I cover issues ranging from delpoying troops along the California border to efforts to lower suicide rates among veterans.

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