A Navy veteran’s plea on a suicide hotline got him the help he needed and something he didn’t — federal gun charges carrying a prison sentence of 40 years. The situation has outraged veterans’ groups who fear it will dissuade suicidal veterans from seeking help, The Washington Post
The case involves Sean Duvall, 45, who served in the Navy during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. He called a Department of Veterans Affairs suicide hotline while on the campus of Virginia Tech carrying a note to his family and a homemade gun. The counselor told him to stay put and that help was on the way, the Post reported.
Police arrived and took Duvall, who was homeless and unemployed at the time of the incident in June 2011, to a psychiatric facility. He now has psychiatric help, a job and an apartment, the Post reported.
However, he has been charged with four federal counts involving manufacturing and possessing a homemade gun that carry a 40-year prison sentence.
“Every veteran I’ve talked to is outraged,” Dan Karnes, president of the Roanoke Valley Veterans Council, told the Post. “When we have veterans that are coming back from wars now, they’ll think twice about seeking help when they see what was done to him.”
Duvall’s lawyer has filed motions to dismiss the charges, arguing Duvall was calling a confidential hotline and that by prosecuting him, the government is violating that trust. The government, however, noting the incident occurred on the campus that was the site of the mass shooting in 2007, said it has a duty to prosecute all equally, the Post reported.
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