A Hillsboro man released from prison in January and ordered to successfully complete the STAR program has been ordered to return to prison following a hearing in Highland County Common Pleas Court on Wednesday.
Aaron L. McKenzie, 23, was terminated from STAR in June, which is a violation of the conditions on which he was released from prison.
McKenzie was sentenced in June 2014 to 24 months in prison after pleading guilty to illegal assembly or possession of chemicals for the manufacture of drugs, a third-degree felony. He was granted judicial release to STAR in January.
The court on Wednesday heard testimony from STAR facility staff in regard to why McKenzie was terminated after 132 days in the program.
According to case manager James Meyers, McKenzie had 18 rule infractions while at the facility. He said that while McKenzie did complete some course work, he continued to show “the same pattern of behavior as when he first came in.”
House coordinator Kevin Sheridan said that primary among the reasons that McKenzie was terminated was that he continued to exhibit “the same distorted thinking” as when he first arrived at the facility, which included manipulative behavior, he said.
Following testimony, McKenzie told the court that when he went to STAR it was “a whole other environment … I feel that I was taking the program very seriously toward the end.”
He added that he had the opportunity to return to Hillsboro, but chose instead to remain in the Portsmouth area where he had lined up aftercare treatment and employment.
Judge Rocky Coss noted that McKenzie was allowed the opportunity for treatment with his guilty plea to the third-degree felony. The judge also noted that a second-degree felony illegal manufacture of drugs charge, which would have carried a mandatory prison term of at least three years, was dismissed.
Coss said the order from the court was not “to do pretty well” at STAR, but to successfully complete it.
He added that terminating a person from the treatment facility is not something that the treatment staff takes lightly.
Reviewing the report from STAR, Coss noted that McKenzie had “went through a lot of classes.”
“Completing the coursework is one thing,” he said. “Applying what you learn is another.”
The judge also noted McKenzie’s cases with the courts since 2005, which Coss referred to as “a real history of not doing what you’re told.”
Ultimately, McKenzie’s community control was revoked and he was ordered to serve the remainder of his prison term.
He will receive credit for his time at STAR, Coss said.
In another hearing, Melvin M. McKenzie, 36, Hillsboro, was sentenced to three years community control and to continue in a treatment program in which he is currently participating.
Melvin McKenzie initially was granted intervention in lieu of conviction in June 2014 after pleading guilty to fifth-degree felony aggravated possession of methamphetamine.
The defendant has no prior felony convictions.
He was terminated from the program in June after admitting to using methamphetamine.
Jesse Lee Edwards, 24, Martinsville, pled guilty to fifth-degree felony heroin possession. He is scheduled to be sentenced in August.
Dustin Schwalbaugh, 25, Williamsport, failed to appear for a pretrial hearing on a case in which he is charged with two fourth-degree felony counts of aggravated assault. A warrant was issued for his arrest.
Reach Angela Shepherd at 937-393-3456, ext. 1681, or on Twitter @wordyshepherd.