The feeling I was getting about the sentencing phase of the court-martial, wasn’t a good one.
Colonel Grainger was a Vietnam era soldier with a reputation for being one of the tougher judges at Fort Polk. He was in his office deciding my future.
There was nothing else that I could say or do on my own.
I knew that when he came out that I would be told that prison was my destination. I just didn’t know for how long.
I’m pretty sure I said one of those prayers like, “God, please let him go easy on me.” Seemed like a good time for that.
The amount of time he took to make his sentencing decision was exactly thirty-seven minutes. Pretty quick for a serious decision like this. However it was one of the longest waiting periods of my life.
Colonel Grainger: “Court will come to order.”
A statement was made about everyone being present.
Colonel Grainger: “Before I announce the sentence there’s a couple of things that I think need to be said. First, this is probably one of the most aggravated drug cases the court has seen in recent times because of the number and types of drugs sold, the number of occasions and to the widespreadness of the distribution. Had it not been for the accused’s cooperation with the CID, this court would sentence this accused to a period of confinement close to what the government asked for.
The court believes that the accused has attempted to make the curve and make the turn toward becoming a rehabilitated member of society. And because he’s made that turn, I think it’s necessary to give him substantial credit for that. He didn’t have to do that. He could have sat back and not cooperated with the police and not done that. So the court is going to give him a lot of credit for it. And bear in mind, this is an aggravated case indeed and your prior crimes can’t go unanswered.
Counsel and accused, please rise.”
Captain Jokinen and I, stood before the military judge to receive sentencing.
I was nervous, and I’m sure I prayed one of these “God if you get me out of this” prayers.
Colonel Grainger: “Private David C. Mike, it is my duty as military judge to sentence you:
To be reduced to the grade of Private E-1, to forfeit all pay and allowances, to be confined for five years, and to be discharged from the service with a dishonorable discharge.”
The rest of the discussion about appeals and post-trial rights were a blur.
Colonel Grainger asked if I had any questions. I said, “No, Your Honor.”
I was credited thirty-seven days of pretrial confinement towards my five year sentence and then the court-martial was adjourned.
Outside the court room a few people were waiting to hear the results. Jane came for moral support. Eddie was there because if I changed my plea to not guilty, he would have been called to the stand as a witness for the prosecution. My two fellow platoon members and of course my dad. SFC Smith and Special Agent Thundercloud had already left.
In my immature bravado, I mentioned how 5 years was going to be a piece of cake. You know, “I can do this!”
My dad held up pretty well. I would not see him again for a few years. Even though all of this was going on, I knew that he still loved me. He even said it out loud in the trial.
I said my goodbyes to everyone except Eddie. I knew I would see him again very soon since I would be a witness in his court-martial.
As I got into the car that would be taking me back to the Vernon Parish Jail, the thoughts started to break through the numbness.
I didn’t expect that.
It was more time than any of the other dealers got in the past. I was hoping for between three and four years. This would have meant that I would have gone to Fort Riley, Kansas.
They had a detention facility there that was more like a military training environment. It was much less intense and where you wanted to be if you had to do time.
A five year sentence was insurance that I would be shipped to the United States Disciplinary Barracks, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Meanwhile, my dad returned to his hotel and walked into the elevator. As the doors closed shut, he let go of the strength he had been holding on to and wept.
God answered my prayer that day. Even though I didn’t think he did.
If “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 2:23a), then Colonel Grainger did go easy on me.
I may not have gotten what I deserved, but I did get what I needed.
God knew exactly how much time was necessary to spend in prison for Him to get my attention.