When Jacksonville City Councilman Aaron Bowman endorsed the re-election bid of 4th Circuit State Attorney Angela Corey Tuesday, he cited Corey’s commitment to Veterans Court.
“Veterans Treatment Court is designed to help veterans who have been honorably discharged, but who are charged with nonviolent felonies or misdemeanors, oftentimes stemming from substance abuse or mental health issues,” said the release, which quoted Bowman’s enthusiastic endorsement of the concept saying, “Angela’s work in Veterans Court has been extraordinary. She’s a true friend to our veterans.”
It didn’t take too long for Public Defender Matt Shirk — who, like Corey, is in a competitive race for re-election — to push back.
“Angela Corey is NOT a supporter of Veterans Treatment Court. Her office habitually stands in the way of veterans getting into this program. Her office calls Veterans Treatment Court a ‘get out of jail free card’ and insists on sending sick veterans to jail. Were it not for the responsible judges in Duval, Clay, and Nassau counties who routinely overrule her office’s almost rote objections, our veteran community would not be getting the treatment they deserve,” Shirk wrote on his campaign Facebook page Tuesday evening.
“Because Angela Corey refused to support the creation of Veterans Treatment Court,” Shirk continued, “the job fell to the Public Defender’s Office and to this day Veterans Treatment Court is staffed by our office. Unlike every other Veterans Treatment Court in the country, the job fell to us because Angela Corey’s opposition was so fierce. It is our amazing staff who shepherd veterans through the 18-month-long, rigorous treatment program because she refuses to support Veterans Treatment Court.”
“Councilman Bowman is an honorable public servant with a distinguished former career as a Naval Officer, and it is clear that Angela Corey has, at best, misled him and, at worst, outright lied to him. Angela Corey is not a supporter of Veterans Treatment Court. She’s an opponent,” Shirk concluded.
The ongoing sparring match between Shirk and Corey has animated the election season so far, with Shirk offering sharp critiques of the incumbent state attorney. Tuesday’s riposte was the latest example.
In response to Shirk’s charges, the Corey campaign said the following:
“Mr. Shirk’s attempt to redirect attention away from the issues in his own campaign by attacking the good work Ms. Corey has done in Veterans Treatment Court is shameful and disrespectful to those in need who have served our great nation,” said Cathleen Murphy, who handles communications for the campaign.