June 22, 2018
OMS RIVER - A U.S. Marine Corps veteran and 16-year Ocean County sheriff's officer was sentenced Friday to three years in prison for stealing cocaine meant for training the sheriff's narcotics K-9s.
John Adams, 41, of Toms River, who had been in charge of the sheriff's K-9 unit, said he was sick with addiction when he took the drugs for his personal consumption.
With family and other supporters filling the front row of a courtroom, Adams told Superior Court Judge Wendel E. Daniels he was ashamed and sorry.
"I sincerely apologize to the men and women in the Ocean County Sheriff's Office and all the citizens of Ocean County whom I've failed," he said.
Adams pleaded guilty Nov. 30 to second-degree theft and second-degree official misconduct, both crimes that carry prison terms of five to 10 years. Additionally, second-degree official misconduct carries a mandatory five-year period of parole ineligibility.
William Scharfenberger, assistant Monmouth County prosecutor, however, recommended that Adams' crimes be treated as less serious offenses for purposes of sentencing. Scharfenberg said he was making that recommendation because of Adams' "significant cooperation" with the state and for locating "items of value to the state."
Daniels agreed to go along with the recommendation and sentenced Adams to three years in prison for official misconduct, with a requirement that he serve two years before he can be considered for release on parole. Daniels sentenced Adams to a concurrent, three-year term for theft.
Adams' forfeited his sheriff's job and any future public employment in New Jersey.
His attorney, Mitchell Ansell, said Adams had no prior criminal history and valiantly served his country for four years in the U.S. Marine Corps. Adams worked for the sheriff's office for 16 years.
"I don't really believe that John is a criminal," Ansell said. "I believe John is a sick man who has a horrible disease."
However, Ansell said Adams is now "a completely different man," after undergoing treatment and achieving sobriety.
"He's dedicated his life to recovery," Ansell said.
Daniels, in sentencing Adams, acknowledged his addiction is a disease, but added that the disease resulted in a "betrayal of public trust."
When it became apparent that drugs were missing from the sheriff's K-9 unit, Adams "came up with a deceptive defense," Daniels said. Adams said someone else who trained the dogs put the drugs in a black bag that the cleaning people may have taken, the judge noted.
The missing drugs subsequently turned up during a search of Adams' home, Daniels said.
The judge also noted reports from mental health specialists who described trauma that Adams suffered during his service in the Marines and post-traumatic stress disorder, "with a larger component of survivor's remorse."
Adams underwent in-patient drug rehabilitation treatment in 2017, followed by counselling four to five days a week, Daniels said.
"He does sound remorseful and he does take responsibility for his particular acts," the judge said.
Kathleen Hopkins: 732-643-4202;