On March 27, 2015, Sergeant Kenneth Justen Shaw (Justen) was convicted of aggravated assault and aggravated battery and sentenced to serve ten years in prison. The judge also banished Justen from Monroe County, where Justen was born and raised, for the entirety of his additional ten-year probation sentence.
Although these facts, standing alone, indicate that Justen must have done something truly horrendous, we are confident that the world will see that these convictions and sentence are completely unjust and must be overturned.
In November 2009, Justen, the only member of his family to join the military, was motivated by the 9/11 attacks to join the Army at age 19 as an Infantryman so that he could protect our country. A member of the 3rd Infantry Division, Justen served two tours of duty, the first in Iraq and the second in Afghanistan. He became a sergeant and non-commissioned officer in 2012. Justen engaged in multiple direct firefights during his tour in Afghanistan, and he witnessed many of his friends give the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
In September 2013, Justen retired from the military for medical reasons. In addition to Tourette’s Syndrome and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, he has been diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Since his retirement, Justen has been working to create a positive and productive life for himself, despite the challenges he continues to face from his service. He married his beautiful wife, Jessica, got a full-time job at Plant Scherer, and spent time with the family that means the world to him, including his sisters, Darrell and Bobbi, and his brothers, Nathan and Riley.
In March 2014, Justen was at a Waffle House with Jessica and Darrell. Embarrassed by the verbal tics caused by his Tourette’s, he approached a couple to apologize for any disturbance he had created, an apology he makes routinely because he knows his Tourette’s can make people uncomfortable. During this conversation, the guy pulled a knife and threatened Justen, who feared for Jessica and Darrell’s safety, and a fight ensued. The person who pulled a knife walked away with a small laceration on his face.
Shockingly, Justen was the only individual arrested. At the time of his arrest, Justen was clearly mentally distressed and in the middle of a PTSD flashback. Despite being aware of Justen’s PTSD, the officers used physical force to arrest him. Justen needed stitches to recover from the injuries caused by the police. Like so many other veterans dealing with mental disorders or illnesses, Justen has been misunderstood and unfairly victimized due to the lingering trauma of his service. The state even charged Justen with obstruction of a police officer based on this incident, but fortunately, the jury acquitted him on that count.
Justen refused to accept a plea deal that involved prison time, given that he acted only to protect his family, so he went to trial. At trial, the prosecutor and alleged victims used Justen’s military service--and the mental illnesses he lives with every day as a result of that service--to portray Justen as a danger to others and to the community. After the jury convicted Justen, the judge stated that he intended to make an example of Justen and sentenced him to ten years’ imprisonment. What exactly did the judge intend to stop with his sentence? Fighting in restaurants.
What has happened to Justen as a result of this one interaction at Waffle House is unjust and unfair. Justen has been asked to put his life on the line to protect our country, and when he took reasonable steps to protect those dearest to him, he was convicted of felonies that will prevent him from even owning a gun in the future and sentenced to ten years in prison.
This is unacceptable, and we intend to exhaust all legal options to overturn Justen’s convictions and get him out of prison. This is a very expensive process, and we need your help. If you are able, please donate so that we can get the best defense for Justen possible. If you are not able to contribute financially, please share this page so that we can spread Justen’s story and show him and his family that the world supports him.
Justen and Jessica want to start a family and make a life for themselves, and their hopes and plans for their future are all on hold while Justen sits in prison. The system that Justen fought to protect is the exact system that’s failing him now. Please help us get Justice for Justen.x