Adam Fiegl had to resign his job as a sheriff’s deputy in November after he admitted he smuggled opiates into the Erie County Holding Center last spring.
His guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge of criminal possession of a controlled substance, however, won’t keep him from continuing his military career.
Fiegl appeared Monday in Erie County Court for sentencing and, with the approval of probation investigators, was granted a conditional discharge of his case.
Judge Michael Pietruszka told Fiegl to continue his mental health treatment, cooperate with conditions set in the city’s Veterans Court, perform 75 hours of community service and stay out of trouble with the law.
Fiegl, 33, of Orchard Park, was hired by the Erie County Sheriff’s Office in 2013 after he was discharged from full-time military service with the 101st Airborne Division.
Fiegl, however, “struggled terribly” in his job, missing work for months at a time because of PTSD symptoms as he tried to deal with “unresolved military trauma,” said Thomas Eoannou, his attorney.
Eoannou told of Fiegl’s two tours of duty in Iraq, where he was a rear gunner on a Humvee and was under enemy fire for much of the time. As part of a helicopter team, Eoannou said, Fiegl retrieved the bodies of other soldiers and had one soldier die in his arms. For his efforts, he earned numerous commendations and his commander wrote the court a letter of support, calling Fiegl a hero.
When he returned to civilian life, Eoannou said, “It all caught up to this very good soldier.”
Fiegl was arrested in April after other deputies found Suboxone pills in his coat pocket when he reported for work at the Erie County Holding Center. He allegedly was bringing the opiates to inmates in exchange for $200. The incident cost him job, pension and health insurance, along with his reputation, his attorney said.
A conditional discharge would allow Fiegl to remain on Army Reserve duty. Even so, Pietruszka wondered whether staying in the service would be the best outcome.
“Why would we put this man back into the situation that caused his problem?” the judge asked.
Eoannou said the military has provided Fiegl with effective counseling and other mental health treatment since his arrest and has deemed him “mission capable.”
Fiegl also assured the judge of his status, saying he is “back to 100 percent.”
“This year I could have 15 years in the military, and then be five years from retirement,” Fiegl said. “It’s all I have left.”
Story topics: Erie County Court