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Abuse chief again detoxed

August 31, 2000

Abuse chief again detoxed



By MARLO BARNHART / Staff Writer


Nine days after a July court appearance for violation of probation, the director of Washington County's nationally acclaimed Jail Substance Abuse Program was readmitted to a hospital detox unit, according to a report filed by his probation agent.

Charles Ray Messmer was picked up Wednesday by Hagerstown City Police on a bench warrant. He posted a $1,000 bond and was released, according to records in Washington County District Court.

The probation agent's report requesting the bench warrant indicates Messmer was admitted to a detox unit at Washington County Hospital July 22 for "detoxification from alcohol consumption."

He then entered the Greenway Center in Henryville, Pa., for inpatient treatment, court records said.

Those allegations, and reports that Messmer was $50 behind in his monthly supervision fees, mean that a new violation of probation hearing could be scheduled.

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At the July 13 violation hearing, Messmer's probation before judgment verdict was allowed to stand despite two alcoholic relapses in March and admissions to the Washington County Hospital detoxification unit.

A visiting judge sitting in District Court for Washington County was told in July both the defense and the prosecution recommended no additional penalty for Messmer.

Judge Milnor Roberts said it was clear that retired Judge John Cooloahan of Baltimore County - who heard the case last November - wanted no further alcohol use when he granted Messmer probation before judgment.

Roberts said July 13 he was reluctant to leave the probation before judgment intact in light of the two March violations. He did extend the probation another six months.

Messmer pleaded guilty last November in Washington County District Court to driving while intoxicated.

Messmer, 44, had a blood alcohol level of .35 on June 19, 1999, when he was arrested at his 20 Richmond St. home after witnesses told police he'd been driving erratically in the parking lot of the apartment complex, according to court records.

Legally, a blood-alcohol level of 0.10 or above constitutes driving while intoxicated in Maryland.

According to court records, Messmer was admitted to Washington County Hospital on March 20 and again March 31 for alcohol detoxification.

Temporarily relieved of his duties at JSAP earlier this year, Messmer has continued his employment with the Washington County Health Department writing grants.

Health department spokesman Betty Shank said Wednesday that Messmer's employment is unchanged.

Efforts to reach Messmer were unsuccessful.

Begun in 1989 as the first jail-based alcohol/substance abuse treatment program in Maryland, JSAP has become a national model under Messmer's leadership through the Washington County Health Department.

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