Justice for Clay: An Injured Vet
Clay was always a bright, beautiful child. Following in his grandfather's military footsteps, he joined the Army in 2005. As a testament to his intelligence, Clay was offered Honor Guard three times, yet turned it down because "he wanted to go Airborne." Clay was part of the first surge in Iraq, deployed in January 2007, and sent to Sadr City, aka Hell on Earth. Hell on Earth was his home for the next 15 months. He still cannot talk about the many horrors he was witness to, but finding the severed heads of children in boxes is one story that still haunts him.
By 2009, Clay rose to an E5, an unusual and exceptional rise in Army ranks, and was deployed to Iraq again in the summer of 2009. For the next 13 months, Clay fought in the bloodiest and most dangerous battles. In March 2010, he returned home a changed, brain damaged, man. The daily explosions, gun battles, and atrocities of war, permanently damaged him. He was discharged from the Army in 2012.
In March 2012, Clay's mom and dad took him home to Trenton, FL and soon realized the extent of their son's mental injuries: they now had a son who would pace all night for fear of going to sleep; a son who slept on the floor for a year; a son who still has night terrors. During one of these night terrors, his father tried to wake him, only to find himself flat on his back on the floor after Clay threw him down and restrained him. When Clay "came to" and realized that he had just attacked his father, he broke down in tears.
Due to Clay's injuries, he was unable to hold down a steady job. The VA in Gainesville, 30 minutes from his home, initially treated him with opiates (narcotic pain killers) and out-patient therapy. Clay, although suffering from short-term memory loss and other related TBI conditions, was expected to remember his many appointments. Clay could not tolerate the opiates and told me, "Megs, if you had told me someone shot my dog when I was on those things, I wouldn't have shed a tear. I was just numb. I didn't like the numbness."
Without a job, Clay could not always afford the gas to get to the VA in Gainesville. Adding to his financial and mental woes, the VA has never paid him his TBI and PTSD disability benefits in 4 YEARS due to a "technical error." Because Clay could not tolerate the opiates, find a job, or receive his VA disability benefits, he sought the use and sale of small amounts of illicit drugs to self-medicate and make a little money. In April, 2014, Clay made an approximate $200 sale to a confidential informant in Trenton, FL. This sale was a felony and the DA Robert Willis, who champions himself to be "tough on crime and criminals," created another Hell on Earth for Clay by fighting against Clay's request for Veterans Treatment Court.
Clay plead and was released from Gilchrist county jail as a Confidential Informant on probation. Clay made a buy for the county in January 2015 and walked in the buy to the Sheriff Robert D. Schultz. Yet, DA Robert Willis said that the buy was unsanctioned and charged Clay with felony possession which carried a 25 year prison sentence. Due to Mr. Willis' zealous prosecution, Clay was held for 4 months in Gilchrist County Jail, without access to his daily PTSD/TBI medication. During these four months, Clay was only allowed outside for 2 hours a week, and only on a Friday afternoon. However, many weeks would go by without any outside privileges. Additionally, Gilchrist county charged Clay over $9,000 for this 4 month stay. This debt to the county remains unpaid.
In August 2015, I got involved. As I researched my cousin's case, I found that Florida is only one of 26 states to offer Veterans Treatment Court and pressed the public defender and the VA to work on Clay's behalf for treatment instead of incarceration. Clay also fought for treatment and rehabilitation and wrote this letter in November 2015 to Judge William Davis of the 8th circuit court:
On November 19th, 2015, Judge Davis ordered that Clay be transferred out of the criminal court system and into the Veterans Court System--a system that was purposefully created for injured veterans like Clay. A treatment system which provides rehabilitative care and resources for the many veterans who return to society broken and traumatized. This verdict was an answer to our prayers. Little did we know, our fight for Clay was not over.
According to a source at the VA, DA Robert Willis did not like the verdict. According to another reliable source, Robert Willis doesn't see Clay as an injured veteran, he sees Clay as a menace to society. Perhaps this explains why it then took Gilchrist county 4 months to complete the necessary paperwork to transfer Clay out of the county and to a Veterans Treatment Center in a neighboring county?
In March of 2015, the Veterans Court paperwork was finally completed and Clay went to the county to sign the papers. After Clay signed, Gilchrist county charged him with a violation of probation and transferred him back to the county jail instead of treatment in Veterans Court.
The paper work for a new plea deal didn't take 4 months for the county to draft! In just a few short days, DA Robert Willis offered another plea deal to have Clay sent to state prison on an 18 month sentence and further warned that if he didn't sign the deal, the state would continue to add months to his prison sentence until Clay signed. Clay signed the deal on April 14th, with an expectation that he would be transferred to the medical ward of Lake Butler state prison and serve only 6 months pending good behavior.
Clay was transferred to Lake Butler state prison on April 19th. No one in his family has talked to him since. The only information we can get from Lake Butler is that he is in general population--yet another Hell on Earth. We were simply told that Lake Butler "doesn't do prisoner classifications on Fridays." Is Clay's classification as a mentally injured and brain damaged veteran not enough for required medical attention or the classification needed for the prison's medical ward? To this day, nearly a week later, Lake Butler could not confirm that Clay was getting his daily, prescribed medication that he desperately needs.
In one of my daily, recorded conversations with Clay as he sat behind the bars of Gilchrist County jail, he said, "Megs, if I sign this deal, I will have 6 months to go outside everyday if I need to. I can get exercise. If I don't, I sit here and rot in Gilchrist County jail and the time behind prison walls just keeps adding up. In the medical ward, I am away from the murderers and hard criminals. I can get my medication every day. And when I get out, I can put Gilchrist County behind me and move to a place where I can start over and get some help. I know I need help. I have been asking for it, but the DA seems to have it out for me."
I know that Clay is not the first veteran to suffer the injustices of an overly zealous prosecutor, a corrupted and abusively incompetent VA, and the injuries sustained from the horrors of war. Yet, without accountability, Clay will not be the last. Clay may not have been an angel when he returned from two tours in Iraq, but the demons that he carries with him will only get worse in the walls of a cell in the general population of a state prison.
As a member of the media, it is my duty to expose the truth, and I will not rest until there is justice for Clay. I will talk to any reporter, news organization, or elected official about Clay's case. Raised by military men--who all pledged to leave no man behind, I cannot and will not abandon Clay. When justice is served, the truth is widely known, and Clay enters a rehabilitative program, Clay and his family will finally rest.
I have set up a Go Fund Me account for Clay to: pay off his debts to the county when he gets out of state prison (which now exceeds $12,000), obtain rehabilitative therapy and treatment, and a cushion to start his new life--a new life that is free from this corruption, incompetence and abuse. A life of enduring freedom. A life which he fought for and a life that he deserves.
My next step is navigating through the clemency process. My advocacy on behalf of injured veterans started with Clay yet will not end with him. Our vets are our heroes who deserve our very best efforts and our service. We must challenge and hold to account the system that is failing them. I gladly accept the challenge.
Clay is now in a two man cell, but due to an incident at the prison, the prison has been in "lock down" since last week. He is still able to receive letters and books. His address is: Clayton John App #G21907
GRC 7 B2-119U
5168 Ezell Rd.
Graceville, FL 32440
He loves to receive letters and will reply to yours. He also loves mysteries and thrilling novels and reads every book he receives in record time. I'm thankful for the many books he has received and am thankful for each of the donations that have come in to financially support him and pay off his debts to the county for his previous incarceration. We have a long way to go, but we will get there through Gods guidance and the support of the many people who have reached out on his behalf. We cannot thank you enough for your care and concern.
I will continue to update this page with any new information. I have included a picture of a card I received from Clay. He is my angel and you all are his ❤️
Because of my initial and continued contact with Robert Bradley's Chief of Staff, Clayton is now receiving all of his daily meds and was transferred into a different wing housing 01 prisoners (least dangerous).
He has been applying everyday to get into the prison's Faith Program, however, his application may not be approved before his release.
He is taking it day by day. He can receive books and loves to read. He is also sweeping and mopping some floors for an hour a day.
We are thankful that he is safer now than where he was when first processed as a prisoner. We are counting the days and pray that he gets an early release based on good behavior.
Your donations mean the world as I will continue to fight on his behalf and I will continue my letter writing campaign to all offices involved to ensure that there is Justice for Clay. I have received emails from many people supporting Clay and our efforts on behalf of him and these letters mean the world. Thank you and Clay thanks you. We ask that you continue to keep him in your prayers.
I was shocked to learn that not only was Clay in general population since April 19th, but until Steven called, he was being held with class O4 prisoners. Prisoners are classified from 01-04. 04 prisoners are the MOST dangerous. So, from April 19th to May 6th, Clay was in general population--which amounted to a dorm with 75 dangerous felons. He hadn't received his required and complete dosage of medication until April 6th, He was then transferred to the West Ward and during transit, while the inmates were left unsupervised, he was robbed of his possessions.
Yet Clay still remains in general population in a new dorm with 40 men who are classified as 01 prisoners. He has already been threatened and some inmate kept challenging Clay to a fight which Clay refused to engage in. However, if Clay should need to defend himself, he will. That is how he is trained. Bu should he ever have to, he will lose any and all opportunity of early release which is based on good behavior. He is in a high risk environment due to his mental injuries.
Even though the Senators office has called, Lake Butler prison is still is not giving him all of his medication.
Clay is supposed to receive a nighttime medication, in addition to his daily medications--a generic (unknown) of 300mg given at 10:30 pm each night.
Last Saturday, he was expecting the guard to call him to take his medication. He was never called. So he went a night without it.
On Sunday night, he approached the guard and asked for his medication and he was given his medication.
On Monday night, he approached a guard again to ask for his medication and the guard told him to go back to bed. Clay followed orders, yet went without his medication again.
Today, the nurse WROTE UP clay for not showing up on Saturday and Monday to get his medication. This write up is a strike against his good behavior AND if he gets ONE MORE write up, his good behavior and early release will be thrown out...voided.
If Clayton were in the medical ward, this would never happen. If Clayton were treated according to a judges order which awarded him Veterans Treatment Court, this would never happen.
The problem here is two fold: one, the prison employees are either not trained or informed regarding Clay's medical needs (specifically the guard who sent him back to bed) and two, Clay has TBI and PTSD which affects his memory and sleep. Why are they putting the responsibility on a mentally injured man, one who has night terrors, memory loss, depression, anxiety, etc. when he doesn't receive all his medication, to beg for his medication?
I have contacted the Senator's office regarding this issue and I am pressing, fervently, for the transfer to the medical ward, should Clay have to spend the remainder of his time incarcerated, rather than treatment granted to him by a state Judge, the Honorable Judge Davis.