The underlying subplot that features a device called the “Whizzinator” not withstanding, the case of an Ozark man being held in jail on drug charges raised some relevant questions about how the criminal justice system treats those who battle addictions, and what else could be done to help them become productive members of society.
“All too often, the easy answer is just to ship them, warehouse them, but really I think it is a revolving door,” defense attorney Joseph Passanise said on behalf of his client, Justin Wimsatt.
Wimsatt is charged with two class D felony counts of possession of a controlled substance and one misdemeanor charge of unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia. His latest accusation of violating terms of probation involve using a “synthetic urine delivery device” to attempt to pass a drug test.
“My client decided to try to use a Whizzinator to defraud the court, and to defraud Probation and Parole, which I’m sure they’re real happy about that,” Passanise said sarcastically.
More on the Whizzinator in a moment.
Wimsatt remains jailed in Ozark, awaiting a plea hearing or trial setting scheduled for July 11. After a hearing June 13, Circuit Judge Jennifer Growcock began deliberating whether or not she will grant a motion to lower Wimsatt’s bond so that he may check himself into a residential drug treatment program.
According to its official website, the Whizzinator retails for $139.95. It includes the newest model, the Whizzinator Touch, four heat packs, one syringe, one “freeze dried synthetic urine sample,” one instruction manual and a generous feeling of desperation for all who purchase it.
“I think I’ve done maybe two Whizzinator cases in my career, so it never ceases to amaze me the ingenuity that exists out there if they’d just redirect that ingenuity to keeping things fixed and becoming productive citizens,” Passanise said.
Passanise’s “alternative solution” proposed to the judge would put Wimsatt under supervision for probation rather than supervision for parole at the end of a prison sentence.
“We are dealing with an addiction, substance abuse problem. I don’t really think that our retribution, so to speak, is going to address those issues,” Passanise said.
Christian County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Anna Bunch recommended that Wimsatt’s bond stay at $20,000 cash or surety, and that his probation from a prior case be revoked.
“We’ve done everything we can to help Justin with his addiction issue,” Bunch said.
Bunch then gave an overview of Wimsatt’s case history, which is lengthy. In 2014, he received a suspended imposition of sentence for possession of a controlled substance. He then violated terms of probation several times and was arrested for possession of a controlled substance for a second time in 2015. Wimsatt was given a chance at the Teen Challenge USA program, which he reportedly quit against the advice of the Teen Challenge staff.
Wimsatt entered another drug treatment program in 2016, but lasted two weeks before he was dismissed from that program. He then served 120 days in jail and went into the Christian County Drug Court program. Wimsatt did not complete the drug court program, and stopped showing up entirely in 2017. Ozark police officers arrested Wimsatt on an outstanding warrant.
“He was found with meth and over 400 hydrocodone pills,” Bunch said.
In November 2018, Wimsatt was released from a Missouri Department of Corrections drug treatment program. In December 2018, he was caught using the Whizzinator to attempt to deceive Missouri Probation and Parole officers and what Bunch called “falsifying his urine,” after about a month and a half of time out of jail.
All Whizzinator hijinks aside, Passanise’s arguments do raise a valid point. What is left to do when a drug addict repeatedly runs afoul of the law? How long should the state continue to help that person find new treatment options? At what point do we as a society throw up our collective hands and let the addict sit in prison for a while? How many opportunities for probation should one person have?
“At some point they don’t do what they they’re supposed to do outside of jail, and you kind of run out of options,” Judge Growcock said.
Jails, clearly, do not double as drug rehabilitation centers.
Growcock said she would deliberate on the proposal to allow Wimsatt to try a new residential rehab program, but that the Whizzinator attempt adds a layer of dishonesty to what started as a case of an active drug addict needing help. Growcock told Wimsatt directly that she did not want to risk him getting out, using drugs and doing something violent or harmful to another person.
“That would be on me,” she said.