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Milledgeville City Council member Phillip Joiner discusses his guilty plea with State Court Solicitor General Maxine Blackwell, left, and attorney Holly DeRosa Hogue during his appearance in state court before Judge Alan Thrower.

Jonathan Jackson
The Union-Recorder

Milledgeville City Council member Phillip Joiner appeared in Baldwin County State Court Thursday after admitting to a probation violation that resulted in his detention in the Baldwin County Jail. He entered a guilty plea for driving under the influence and was sentenced for his second DUI.

State Court Judge Alan Thrower released Joiner but ordered that he re-enter a treatment facility by 4 p.m. today.

Joiner entered into a pre-trial agreement with the court in November where he pleaded guilty to driving under the influence after a May 2010 traffic stop that landed him in jail. Under the auspices of the agreement, Joiner agreed to abstain from alcohol and undergo drug and alcohol testing as part of a 12-month probation sentence as well as to enter a treatment facility.

According to Baldwin County Sheriff Bill Massee, Joiner tested positive for alcohol consumption at a Dec. 16, 2010, check. A warrant was issued for his arrest, and he was booked at the Baldwin County Jail Monday, Jan. 3. Joiner entered a treatment facility two days later and returned to Baldwin County Jail Wednesday ahead of Thursday’s hearing.

Joiner said he regretted not entering into treatment earlier and said he instead chose to observe holidays with his family. He said he felt it was time to focus on his personal health and asked the court to order further treatment.

“To me the thought of beer tastes like handcuffs, the thought of liquor is like a jail cell and the thought of a glass of wine tastes like probation,” Joiner told Thrower. “It struck me over the week in seeing all these other people dealing with their own issues … that I wasn’t alone and I can share this with other people, and it made me excited for my treatment.”

Thrower was hesitant to continue Joiner’s pre-trial status, though State Court Solicitor Maxine Blackwell recommended the pre-trial status to the court.

“The reason that I have made the recommendation is, I do believe, it’s tough. The surrender to alcoholism is not an easy thing, and I hope that it is legitimate and sincere — that Mr. Joiner has finally surrendered that he’s got a problem, that he’s got to listen to other people who are trying to help him and do it the way they recommend,” Blackwell said. “We’ve got 10 months of supervision left when he gets out of treatment.”

Thrower said the decision was his alone and noted he is not bound to accept any recommendation.

“I am disappointed that the violation took place, and I’m more disappointed it took place as quickly as it did … I cannot in good conscience treat you any different than I would any other individual in this courtroom. We are taught as judges to temper justice with mercy. In my opinion, the original pre-trial sentence you got was merciful. I think now it’s time to face the justice part.”

Joiner’s attorney pleaded that the court order further treatment to hasten his entry into a treatment program.

Joiner entered a guilty plea, and Thrower mandated that Joiner enter treatment. Thrower also revoked the pre-trial status, which places Joiner under the penalties incurred in a second DUI conviction.

“He will be eligible to get his license back after 12 months of probation, but will have to go through a 17-week drug and alcohol program,” Blackwell said. “He will also have to surrender any car tag in his name.”

Joiner has already paid fines associated with the case upon entering the pre-trial agreement.

“I hope you do understand … you’ve got a serious illness,” Thrower said. “It’s extremely treatable … it appears a lot of people depend on you, hopefully rightfully so. Nobody else can open the door to treatment but you. I’ll be one of the first ones waving a flag for you at the end.”

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