Messiah Henry has spent much of his 23 years incarcerated.
Too much time wasted, he told a judge Thursday.
That’s why the Atlantic City man understood the chance he was given as Superior Court Judge Bernard DeLury went against the recommendations of the state and probation by not sending him to prison.
Instead, Henry was given special probation for five years.
“Thank you and I’m not going to make a fool out of you,” Henry told DeLury. “I’m just ready to do good.”
Henry was on probation when he got four new charges over the past year. Under the deal he made in 2017, that violation had him facing an eight-year prison sentence with no parole for four years.
But DeLury noted that all of those charges involved drugs, and all were committed while Henry was under the influence.
Appearing for sentencing in his Hard Rock Hotel & Casino uniform, Henry spoke of the changes he’s made in his life, including working two jobs and preparing to regain custody of his daughter.
He is also a year clean, receiving treatment at the Damon House.
“I see that there’s some promise here,” DeLury told him. “I want you to get healthy and better and to become a contributing member of society.”
The judge did warn him, however, that if he garners any more charges, he must be prepared for prison.
“It’s a long path, and you’re just at the beginning,” DeLury told him. “That’s not to discourage you, it’s to encourage you.”
Outside the courtroom, Henry’s mother said she is proud of what her son has accomplished and was grateful that the judge gave him this chance.
“He saw something in my son that (Henry) didn’t see in himself sometimes,” Terry Soliman said.
Henry said he often is judged by his past. When something happens, it’s easy to go to the “career criminal.”
But a shooting charge was dropped after he says DNA and fingerprints weren’t a match. There was also surveillance video showing he wasn’t there.
There judge noted during sentencing that there was no indication Henry had a firearm.
Now, he has his diploma and a plan to enroll at Stockton University. Henry also is looking to have a valid driver’s license for the first time.
“I don’t want to keep doing the same things with the same results,” he told the judge. “I’m not going to make a fool out of you because you didn’t need to give me this chance twice.”