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BENNINGTON — A Bennington man looking for a way home from a life of drugs and crime pled guilty Thursday to a single count of forgery, telling the judge during an emotional exchange that he was tired and feels old for such a young man and vowing to “reclaim his life from the drugs that almost ruined it.” To which the judge proclaimed, “You’ve just lived the alternative, now let your treatment allow you to achieve the goals you’ve set.”

Judge Courtland Corsones approved a plea deal for Carrol Thomas Sparks Jr., 33, that wipes clean numerous counts of drug offenses, assaults and violations.

Sparks was sentenced to six months in jail on a single offense, including a violation of parole charge related to the forgery, which will run concurrently. Sparks has been locked up at the Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield since Christmas Eve of 2020. Since Sparks has already served the minimum sentence, he is scheduled to be released as soon as possible. All other charges against Sparks were dismissed with prejudice, meaning the charges cannot be refiled.

Sparks, in jail awaiting trial for the past 13 months, spoke in open court about the pain he’s caused his family and the life he wants to get back to. Speaking on behalf of his client, defense attorney Lamar Enzor told the judge he felt confident that Sparks will follow through with his promise.

“He’s taken responsibility for all of these issues, your Honor. Carroll knows the one thing that’s at fault here, and it’s staring him right in the mirror. He wants to put this behind him. I can see the change in him. Jail is supposed to send a hard message to offenders.”

Then Enzor announced loudly to the courtroom, “Message received.” He added, “I know the next time I see Carroll, he will be on his way to work, not here in a courtroom facing charges.”

The forgery charge stems from a fraudulent $180 check Sparks wrote to himself in 2020 from another person’s account. He faced up to 10 years and a $100 fine on the forgery felony alone, had he been convicted.

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Before leaving the hearing, Sparks asked to say something to the judge.

“I know my attorney said I was a young man, but I’m tired, your Honor,” Sparks said via Webex video from the correctional facility. “I feel old. I know what I’ve done, and I take responsibility for all of it. I just want to get home and be with my family.”

Sparks’ voice then began to crack with emotion. “I’d like just to get back to them. I have a lot to make up for.”

Corsones said, “Good luck to you. I do hope you prioritize treatment so you can get the help you need.”

“Thank you,” Sparks replied. “I will.”

As of Thursday afternoon, Sparks had not yet been released.