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LOCKPORT – An Army combat veteran was so eager to become involved in the substance abuse treatment program available through Niagara County Veterans Court, he’s risking a 15-year prison sentence to do so.

“He’s been basically begging to be in our court,” County Judge Sara Sheldon Farkas said of James G. Hill II, 28, of Saunders Settlement Road, Lewiston. Hill pleaded guilty Thursday to second-degree criminal possession of a weapon for having had an assault weapon during a domestic violence incident March 25, 2013.

Hill, who was in the Army from 2004-12, would have been offered a plea to a lesser charge with a seven-year maximum sentence in regular court, Assistant District Attorney Lisa M. Baehre said. But the local policy is that those seeking help through treatment courts generally must risk the top count against them as the price of admission. If Hill fails in treatment, he risks 15 years behind bars, but the charge will be reduced to a misdemeanor if he succeeds.