Oklahoma Vice: Veterans say pot grower lied about service in Iraq
A Bartlesville man who claimed he grew marijuana to treat post traumatic stress disorder has spent much of the past decade lying about his time in Iraq, according to veterans who served with him.
Austin Eugene Constuble, 31, told Oklahoma Vice he was forced to kill a special-needs child who insurgents strapped with an artillery shell in Iraq. He said he rescued bleeding children from a bombed out school. He also claimed he had been shot at and was injured by a roadside bomb.
None of those things are true.
A jury in Washington County this week found Constuble guilty of cultivating marijuana at his grandmother's house and recommended a three year prison sentence.
Command Sgt. Maj. Jared Worley of the Kansas National Guard drove about three hours from Kansas to refute Constuble's claims about his military service at trial.
On the witness stand, Worley testified that Constuble spent less than two months in Iraq before he was found unfit for service and was sent home.
"I could care less if he smokes weed," Worley said. "It’s the lying about his service, or his lack of service I guess."
Constuble never saw combat and in reality, spent much of his time in Iraq doing menial tasks, inside the fence of a military base, two veterans who served with him told Oklahoma Vice.
Dallas resident Chris Elder, another Kansas National Guard veteran who served in Southern Iraq with Constuble in 2005 said that as far has he knows, Constuble only went outside of the fence of the military base once. The base was far from Baghdad and Constuble never saw combat, Elder said.
"His story of having combat time and being a combat veteran is misinformation," Elder said. "That never occurred."
Worley said he felt it was important to set the record straight, particularly because two soldiers from his company died in Iraq after Constuble went home and several others were injured by roadside bombs.
"Seeing how other service members have been really hurt and then hearing about someone who is faking a story and to get out of trouble really upsets veterans," Worley said.
Brett Mize, assistant district attorney for Washington County, said Constuble was offered a plea agreement with an 8 year suspended sentence through a community sentencing program before trial. But Constuble turned the offer down.
At trial, Constuble testified on his own behalf, again making claims he was shot at, injured by an IED and that he rescued children from a bombed school in Iraq. Constuble has a service dog he claims helps with his PTSD. The dog accompanied him to the witness stand.
"He was very emotional and and had a hard time getting through the testimony," Mize said.
Constuble will return to court November 8 for formal sentencing.
Mize said he feels three years of prison is a fair sentence. State law allows up to a life sentence for growing marijuana.
"Hopefully, he'll be truthful moving forward," Mize said. "I hope he becomes a productive citizen."
Attempts to contact Constuble were unsuccessful.