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50 veterans take advantage of Buncombe County amnesty day

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) — Buncombe County officials held their first ever Veterans Amnesty Day with the goal of giving another chance to people who served their country, but got into minor trouble with the law.

About 50 veterans facing traffic citations or other minor, non-violent misdemeanors were able to pay overdue fines, reset court dates or even get old charges dismissed Friday.

This kind of help is important with 20,000 veterans in the county — some of whom suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or have brain injuries, Superior Court Judge Marvin Pope told the Asheville Citizen-Times.

“Some veterans will have difficulty getting jobs even if they have a misdemeanor on their record,” Pope said.

Department of Veterans Affairs officials were also at the Buncombe County courthouse to help with veterans benefits and health care questions.

U.S. Navy veteran Bruce Abshire was grateful for the help he received with several misdemeanor marijuana charges. He said he struggled with depression and anxiety after serving from 1980 to 1986.

“I’m no angel, I’ll admit that,” he said. But “with a clean record, you’re more likely to be employed.”

District Attorney Todd Williams says he plans to hold another amnesty day soon, perhaps next Memorial Day.

Officials said the amnesty day is a logical extension of Buncombe County’s Veterans Treatment Court.

Getting help with court charges can also help veterans find housing and with quality-of-life issues, said Eric Howard, who coordinates the veterans court.

“Today was huge,” Howard said. “A guy comes up and says, ‘thank you so much for doing this, I got all my charges dismissed and I can get a job.”

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