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Wounded Iraq veteran sentenced to 5 years

GLOUCESTER, Va. — An Army veteran wounded in Iraq during two combat tours was sentenced Tuesday in Gloucester County Circuit Court to serve almost five years in prison for nine daytime burglaries.

Steven Browning Tozer, 27, had all but 58 months suspended of a 75-year sentence for 15 felonies that he pleaded guilty to in September. Visiting Judge Walter J. Ford also ordered Tozer to pay $33,863 in restitution to the nine victims.

In court testimony, Tozer was portrayed as a former soldier who turned to drugs such as spice to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries stemming from his separate combat tours of 15 months and one year. In 2005, Tozer was shot in the hand and suffered shrapnel wounds and concussions from exposure to gunfire and roadside bombs, including one that detonated beneath the vehicle he was riding in, according to court testimony.

Tozer was arrested last April in connection with a series of residential burglaries. At the time he was involved in a bitter court battle over custody and visitation of his two young sons from a previous marriage, according to court testimony.

Tozer's current wife, Dana Tozer, wrote an 11-page letter to the judge and testified that life with her husband has been tough. In addition to dealing with the post-traumatic stress disorder, he suffers from short-term memory loss and other issues.

"You feel like you're taking care of a child sometimes," she said. But she said her husband is "always good to me. He has a huge heart."

Dana Tozer and her husband's attorney, Michael Soberick Jr., had asked that he be sent to a center in Baltimore for treatment of his mental and emotional ailments. Steven Tozer has done a lot for this country and never got the help he needed, Dana Tozer said.

"I think he deserves that chance," she said.

Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Laura Maust said she personally knows veterans who served combat tours who did not return and commit crimes.

"You can punish the defendant and keep the community safe," Maust said.

Steven Tozer read each victim's name and apologized to them.

"I have become a parasite to the very families I swore to protect," he said.

Ford said justice demands penalties.

"You've got to pay the penalty for what you've done," Ford said. "It's wrong."
 

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