JEMS.com Editor's Note: To get a close look at an EMS provider with addictions, read "A Slow Decline" by W. Ann Maggiore, JD, NREMT-P.
LAS VEGAS -- Having blown more opportunities than most drug addicts receive in their tragic lifetimes, Sam Bond caught one last break in District Court.
He avoided spending a long stretch in prison despite pleading guilty to nine felonies linked to his voracious pursuit of morphine and other narcotics while serving as a Clark County Fire Department paramedic.
How the 36-year-old managed to do so much damage to himself and his department and still avoid a penitentiary stretch is a junkie's dream come true.
The larger question is, will he recognize the opportunity he's been handed and make the most of it?
Bond's history indicates that he probably won't, but the justice system recently offered him hope despite the long odds.
Back in July 2007, Bond was suspected of stealing drugs from the back of a Fire Department ambulance. The police were called, but he wasn't arrested.
Although Fire Department officials assured the public they followed proper policy, it appeared they were attempting to keep one of their own from going to jail.
By late September, Bond was grabbed at Desert Springs Hospital trying to steal drugs from the back of a Medic West ambulance. He was fired after failing to report for a drug test.
By October, a police investigation revealed he had pulled a string of 11 narcotics robberies and had broken into Fire Department vehicles and stations. A paramedic for six years, Bond eventually admitted he had long been pocketing partially used morphine vials from paramedic units.
Once caught, Bond was allowed to remain out of jail under house arrest at his father's residence with an electronic anklet monitor. That court courtesy was almost immediately abused.
Bond somehow managed to slip off the monitor undetected and continued his pursuit of Fire Department dope. Following a drug burglary at county Fire Station No. 65, he was arrested on Oct. 13. Only then was he held in jail after being found passed out on his father's driveway.
In a case handled by the state attorney general's office because of potential conflicts, Bond was charged with 20 counts of burglary, drug possession and prisoner escape. He admitted the break-ins of paramedic vehicles and fire stations, where the morphine and other drugs usually administered to accident victims were stored. His burglaries caused the Fire Department to improve its security procedures.
So what do you do with someone who has betrayed his department, admitted committing a string of felonies and fumbled away numerous opportunities to seek treatment?
In Bond's case, you get one last chance to escape prison by completing a one-year, in-patient drug program and adhering to other elements of his agreement .
Despite pleading guilty to nine felonies related to drug possession, burglary and prison escape, Bond landed a drug counseling deferral and three years' probation.
If he completes rehab, he can have his record expunged and, theoretically, reapply for his job, said Bond's attorney, Robert Lucherini. Senior Deputy Chief Stephen Ratigan, however, countered that Bond cannot be rehired.
"He had a substantial drug addiction," Lucherini said. "Like everyone who has drug addictions, it's being treated like a disease."
That news might come as a surprise to the drug-addled thieves and burglars who have ended up serving substantial jail time despite the fact they were robbing to feed their addictions. Fact is, not everyone gets the break Bond received.
District Judge Sally Loehrer was so concerned he might get special treatment in jail, as what she called a member of the "blue brotherhood," that she raised the issue during his April sentencing hearing.
Chief Deputy Attorney General Conrad Hafen reminded the court that Bond had gamed the system just months before while he was supposed to be in treatment.
"He's going to the counseling sessions, and during that same time period, he's out committing the burglaries of the fire stations, and he's taking the vials of the morphine at the same time," Hafen said, adding that Bond also filed a suspicious worker's compensation claim.
Loehrer was skeptical about Bond's ability and willingness to change.
"I'm in a position where I'll tell you the truth," she said. "I don't know whether Mr. Bond can be rehabilitated or not."
Then she granted him one more chance.
But now it's up to Sam Bond: Quit the con games and rise from addiction's abyss, or die a junkie.
Can the former paramedic save his own life?
John L. Smith's column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. E-mail him at Smith@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0295.