RACINE — With a crystal-clear view of Lake Michigan in the background, a Caledonia man on Tuesday stood in orange Racine County Jail scrubs proudly telling a judge he had served in the U.S. Navy.
“On the USS Theodore Roosevelt. I was in Desert Storm, sir,” Michael J. Engaas told Racine County Circuit Judge Gerald Ptacek just before Engaas was sentenced for stealing from his mother last year.
Ptacek sentenced Engaas, 43, to two years on probation and to serve 120 days in jail.
“The one condition of probation is to have you successfully complete Veterans Treatment Court,” Ptacek told him. “It’s a program that’s designed to address your issues, especially your substance abuse issues.”
Engaas pleaded no contest during Tuesday’s hearing to two counts of misdemeanor theft and one charge of criminal damage to property, agreeing to funnel into the newly implemented specialty court.
This specialty court is a first for residents in southeastern Wisconsin, covering Racine, Kenosha and Walworth counties.
Some military veterans charged with a crime are referred into this specialty court, which operates similar to drug courts. However, defendants must have been diagnosed with a mental health issue, have an alcohol or drug abuse problem and have served in the military to be eligible. Defendants also are paired with a veteran mentor, who helps guide them through various treatment programs and counseling.
Engaas’ mother reported to Caledonia police on Christmas Eve that her son had forged two of her checks, for a total of $200, according to his criminal complaint. However, she told police she didn’t want them to do anything until after Christmas, his complaint stated.
Engaas waved to his mother as he was led from the courtroom.
Ptacek also specifically sentenced Engaas to two years in jail, plus another 60 days in jail, but stayed those terms. That means they won’t kick in unless he violates his probation.
Ptacek ordered Engaas back to court next week for his weekly progress check.