Carroll County Crime

Man sentenced for marijuana distribution, obstructing and hindering police

A judge sentenced a Westminster man convicted of distribution of marijuana and obstructing and hindering police to jail time but will consider modifying the sentence in 30 days in light of the defendant's military service and desire for treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Domonic Guy Balassone, 24, of the 4900 block of Littlestown Pike, pleaded not guilty but agreed not to challenge the state's version of the facts to the obstructing and hindering charge.


Balassone was sentenced to five years with the state's Division of Corrections with all but 18 months suspended, to be served locally in the Carroll County Detention Center, for distribution of a controlled dangerous substance. He also received a 30-day sentence for the obstructing and hindering police charge, to be served at the same time.

The charge stemmed from a May 2013 incident in which Balassone, working with a member of the Carroll County Drug Task Force as a confidential informant for a controlled purchase of marijuana, brought marijuana to a meeting with the police officer with the intention of planting it on a subject, according to Deputy State's Attorney Edward Coyne.


Balassone also has a driving while impaired by alcohol charge pending in the Circuit Court of Carroll County and a handgun charge pending in the District Court of Maryland, according to electronic court files.

Balassone testified during the sentencing phase of the hearing that he served in the United States Marine Corps from 2007 until 2011 and spent time in Iraq and Afghanistan.

While in Afghanistan, a vehicle Balassone was traveling in was struck by an improvised explosive device, he said, and he was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury from the explosion.

Since his return from deployment, Balassone said that he has struggled with PTSD and has had difficulty finding treatment.

Balassone's father, John Balassone, said his son was "different" when he returned from his deployment.

"I'm not trying to blame the Marine Corps or Iraq or Afghanistan, but it's a very difficult experience," he said.

Blake Rice, a retired member of the Marine Corps who served with Domonic Balassone, said that Balassone was an outstanding Marine who never shirked his duty.

Rice also said that he knew of other people he served with returning to civilian life and struggling with depression and legal issues. Rice said the last time he saw Balassone was at the funeral of a comrade who had committed suicide.


Balassone said that he smoked marijuana for relief from PTSD, citing recent news that the federal government is debating allowing Veterans Affairs hospitals to prescribe marijuana as a treatment.

After his release from a Naval hospital, Balassone said he was advised to seek treatment at his local VA hospital. He said that he waited 11 months to be treated at the Baltimore VA Medical Center.

Defense attorney Thomas Hickman asked Balassone whether he was suspicious of VA treatment.

"It's hard not to be," Balassone said. "It's all over the news."

In September 2013, Balassone said, he was involved in a serious motorcycle collision that required narcotic painkillers and treatment at the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center, which made it difficult for him to enter a rehabilitation program at the Martinsburg VA Medical Center in West Virginia.

Balassone was charged with driving while impaired by alcohol and related offenses for the crash and is scheduled to have a two-day jury trial at the end of September.


Coyne asked Balassone if he was drinking at the time of the crash and Balassone exercised his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself because the matter was pending. Balassone did say that his blood-alcohol level was 0.06 at the hospital.

Balassone has been incarcerated at the detention center since Aug. 19 when his bond was revoked, Coyne said.

Since spending three weeks in jail, Balassone said he has realized that he was not in the right state of mind to deal with his medical and psychological issues and is now prepared to move forward.

"It's not what I want. It's not the life for me," he said.

Coyne said the state was concerned that Balassone had continued to incur criminal charges after being made aware of the consequences of his actions.

"No question, he served honorably and has lingering effects from his service," Coyne said. "His behavior afterward can't be excused or ignored."


Coyne cited the Aug. 16 handgun charge that Balassone incurred just weeks before being sentenced for marijuana distribution and that might have also been alcohol-related.

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"He continues to do it even though he knows he's facing consequences," Coyne said.

Hickman requested that Balassone be permitted to seek treatment for drug and alcohol abuse as well as PTSD but did not have a plan in place.

Judge J. Barry Hughes said that he had concerns about releasing Balassone without a course of action mapped out to get him the treatment he needs.

"Let me reiterate what others have said and probably what everyone has thought in this courtroom and that is that we owe you a debt for your service to our country," Hughes said.

Hughes added that military service is not a "get out of jail free card."


Hughes ordered a hearing to check the status of a treatment plan for Balassone to be scheduled in 30 days, at which time he will consider modifying his sentence, if appropriate.

Reach staff writer Heather Cobun at 410-857-7898 or email