News

Sarge's new lease on life

Binkley gets job with his lawyer, declared legally sane

Former Army Ranger Sargent Binkley is well on his way to a new life since he robbed a Mountain View Walgreens five years ago for painkillers to numb his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and pain from a hip injury.

After serving a 10-month sentence at Atascadero state mental hospital last year, 35 year old Los Altos resident got a job in his defense attorney's office, and last Friday a Santa Clara County judge declared him legally sane.

"Friday was very big day for Sarge," said his attorney, Chuck Smith, who gave Binkley a job in his office last summer. "This thing has worked out so well for him. He was facing more than a dozen years in state prison."

In 2006, Binkley robbed the Walgreens pharmacy at El Camino Real and Grant Road for painkillers with an unloaded gun. His father, who found the stash of painkillers, had Binkley turn himself in. Binkley faced 12 to 15 years in prison for the crime, but was able to serve 10 months in a mental hospital instead because a jury found him guilty but legally insane.

Though he had completed his sentence last year, he was still "technically insane," at least in a legal sense. A Santa Clara County judge changed that last Friday, and wished him well in his new life as a legally sane citizen.

Smith said he got to know Binkley well during the landmark court battle, and Binkley seemed a good fit for the job when he needed to replace his file clerk.

"Obviously, for what I accomplished for him, I knew he was going to be loyal to me, quite frankly," Smith said.

"If I said 'Get your ass Sunday morning at 9 o'clock to do something,' I knew he was going to be here because I'm the reason he's not in prison," Smith laughed. "He works hard for me."

Binkley agreed. "Chuck Smith was very gracious. I owe that man my life and working for him is an honor."

"I enjoy it to a degree," he added. "If anyone is telling you they like their work they are lying," he laughed.

Binkley, who attended Los Altos High School, played for the Mountain View Marauders football team and graduated from West Point military academy, was held up by other veterans as a poster child in the landmark case for soldiers with PTSD in the criminal justice system. Psychiatrists testified at the trial that Binkley developed PTSD during his time in Bosnia, haunted by the smell of the mass graves. He developed an addiction to painkillers after suffering a hip injury in Honduras that he said "never healed quite right."

When asked what he was thinking when he decided to rob Walgreens, he said he had few other options besides suicide. His hip pain, increasing anxiety and PTSD were causing a "complete lack of sleep," he said. He said he also felt that he wasn't getting any help from the VA.

It all boiled down to: "'Maybe I should do this to try and help myself,'" he said.

While Binkley's story has been told many times in the media, he says, "I hope it hasn't defined me as a person."

"In March of 2006 I thought I was all alone," he said. "I truly thought that. But going through this process I saw hundreds of people speak on my behalf. That was so positive. It enabled me to get through the process."

Binkley still sees a therapist at Palo Alto's VA hospital because his PTSD "hasn't magically disappeared," he said.

But he's grateful for his new lease on life. After working in Smith's offices for several months, he's thinking about going to law school. Smith recently promoted him to be his legal assistant.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Litsa
a resident of Gemello
on Jan 18, 2011 at 1:47 pm

That is just crazy.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by PeaceLove
a resident of Shoreline West
on Jan 18, 2011 at 3:57 pm

Litsa: What is just crazy? The story? Mr. Binkley? Please explain your comment.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Vet with PTSD
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 18, 2011 at 4:42 pm

How can this story still have legs. This guy's PTSD IS NOTHING compared to soldiers deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. He is hardly a poster boy and should be ashamed of himself and the way he disgraced West Point, the Rangers and the Army--none of which he was cut out for.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sabrina
a resident of The Crossings
on Jan 18, 2011 at 6:02 pm

I don't think that you can say that someone's PTSD is "worse" than someone else's PTSD. I have no idea what events the "Vet" is referencing, and am highly doubtful that most other people reading this article will, either. However, I am very aware of the issue of veterans returning home with PTSD and often committing suicide or living with a nightmarish existence. I am glad that at least one example is getting press coverage in our local news. Tragic.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Andrea Gemmet
Mountain View Voice Editor
on Jan 19, 2011 at 9:35 am

Andrea Gemmet is a registered user.

This comment is from a duplicate thread, which is now closed:

I knew Sargent Binkley while on staff at Los Altos High School and at the time he was applying to West Point. He was a good student and I am so pleased that he has received the help he needs after serving his country. He is on his way to a good career and I wish him the best.
by Pat Osborne Jan 18, 2011 at 7:43 pm


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of Shoreline West
on Jan 19, 2011 at 10:06 am

There are lots of comments on this duplicate thread, which is now closed:

Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Army Vet
a resident of another community
on Jan 19, 2011 at 11:38 am

"I enjoy it [his new job] to a degree," he added. "If anyone is telling you they like their work they are lying," he laughed.

That alone should tell you something about this character. He just beat an armed robbery charge using a Twinkie defense, and wham, all of a sudden he's sane and back to his old self. He'll make one hec of a lawyer, that's for sure. If he were smart, he'd be a lot more humble and keep his trap shut and fade into the background.

He was dishonorably discharged from the Army as an officer. That is a pretty hard thing to do. He used PTSD at the expense of those truly suffering from it.

I served in Honduras around the same time as Binkley, and know many guys who served both there and in Bosnia. About the worst thing you could come back with from either place is a native bride--happens a lot. But PTSD? Give me a break. And it's a well-know fact that many soldiers CLAIM PTSD so they can boost their VA claim for compensation.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Grateful for our soldiers
a resident of another community
on Jan 20, 2011 at 11:41 am

I don't think we need to judge one another on the subject of PTSD or even judge a soldier for that matter, especially "whose is worse" and "that is all he had." Really??? Everyone is different and they handle situations different. Being a soldier in war itself is a major life changing experience for soldiers and for their family who they come back to. I think if you are a soldier no matter what situation you come out of war with. If you are a soldier you have served our country to the fullest and we should be grateful for those who have served, who are serving, and who will serve for our country. We need to respect soldiers in general, everyone has their own story when they come out of war, your story maybe different "a Vet with PTSD." A war is a war things happen and we just need to respect that everyone has their own story. Thank you soldiers for what you have done, what you are doing, and what you will be doing. GOD blessed USA!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by DCS
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 20, 2011 at 12:14 pm

Glad to read about the update on this young man, I wish him the very best in his future.


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

Cho's, beloved dim sum spot, to reopen in Los Altos
By Elena Kadvany | 8 comments | 5,803 views

Why I Became Active in Palo Alto Forward
By Steve Levy | 12 comments | 2,251 views

Early Decision Blues
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 0 comments | 1,807 views

Death with Dignity
By Chandrama Anderson | 2 comments | 1,004 views

With a Perspective....
By Ms. Jenson | 0 comments | 374 views