New York Daily News

He ‘showed them right’

Graduates from Mental Health Court in lieu of jail time

- BY CHELSIA ROSE MARCIUS

It was a special kind of commenceme­nt, years in the making.

A beaming Qulon McCain, who once faced up to four years behind bars for stealing four pairs of socks, appeared on the computer screen Friday in what would be his final virtual check-in with Manhattan Mental Health Court.

In another rectangula­r box appeared Judge Juan Merchan, who listened intently as McCain’s case manager Kelly Whitfield ticked off McCain’s accomplish­ments during his 19-month stay at the residentia­l Bronxbased treatment center Harbor House.

McCain attended individual and group therapy sessions six days a week that tackled a number of issues, like anger management, family reintegrat­ion and how to quit smoking.

He repeatedly tested negative for all illicit substances. And McCain — who has bipolar disorder and schizophre­nia, and went years without being properly treated — had “shown extreme resilience,” Whitfield said, when learning how to cope with stressful situations without relying on drugs. Merchan seemed pleased. “So it’s another great update Mr. McCain. You’ve had a lot of them,” the judge said.

“As I’m looking at your criminal history, I’m looking at the 89 misdemeano­rs,” he continued, referring to a list of relatively minor offenses McCain had racked up years before. “[But then] I see how well you’ve done in the program. It’s clear to me that you just were not getting the help that you needed all along.”

“That’s right,” replied McCain, smiling.

McCain, 45, graduated Friday from the court’s alternativ­e to

incarcerat­ion program he entered in July 2019 after pocketing a few pairs of socks from Bloomingda­le’s flagship store on Nov. 9, 2018.

The offense would normally be a petty larceny charge — but McCain, who had swiped a few small items from the same department store in 2017, was slapped with a felony burglary via a sly legal tactic commonly used by stores to thwart repeat shoplifter­s. That charge

carries a prison sentence of two to four years.

McCain’s lawyer, Thalia Karny of New York County Defender Services, urged prosecutor­s to consider her client for Manhattan’s Mental Health Court, where some defendants accused of nonviolent felonies may appear if they’ve been diagnosed with a serious mental illness.

McCain pleaded guilty to burglary and the lesser charge of petty larceny in order to get into the court, with the understand­ing his charges would be reduced after he completed the residentia­l treatment program.

On Friday, Merchan dismissed the burglary charge and granted McCain time served on the charge of petty larceny.

“Your attitude toward treatment and your commitment to getting better, is nothing short of remarkable,” Assistant District Attorney Eva Dowdell said on the virtual call. “I wish you the best of luck, sir.”

As the graduation came to a close, Karny, who was also on the call, swelled with pride.

“I just wanted to say thank you so much for this opportunit­y for Mr. McCain. And I’m so proud of you, Mr. McCain,” she said. “I’m so sad that it’s COVID, and I can’t give you a big hug.”

McCain laughed, before thanking those who he had leaned on for nearly two years.

“I would like to thank [the] staff [for] believing that I could do the program with ease,” he said. “And I showed them right, that I could do it.”

 ??  ??
 ?? BARRY WILLIAMS/FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS ?? Qulon McCain (center) walks with his attorney Thalia Karny (r.) and Andrea Nieves, another attorney with New York County Defender Services, in 2019. He graduated Friday from Manhattan Mental Health Court.
BARRY WILLIAMS/FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Qulon McCain (center) walks with his attorney Thalia Karny (r.) and Andrea Nieves, another attorney with New York County Defender Services, in 2019. He graduated Friday from Manhattan Mental Health Court.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA