When Judge Thomas Leone sentenced Brandon Hinman to probation in June 2015, both the court and the district attorney expected Hinman to accomplish three things.
Convicted of stealing nearly $50,000 in funds raised to care for his newborn twins, the Army veteran had promised to pay restitution, receive substance abuse treatment and fulfill his duties as a father. But now, two years later, Hinman is back in jail.
"At that time our desire was to get the money back for the twins' future, get him off drugs and alcohol and get him involved in his daughters' lives," Cayuga County District Attorney Jon Budelmann said. "Unfortunately, he hasn't paid back much of the money, he's still using drugs and he's only spent a small amount of time with those girls."
Hinman's twin daughters were born prematurely in March 2014. Days later, his wife, Jenna, discovered she was suffering from a rare form of cancer. She was placed in a medically induced coma for two months, but passed away in May.
During that time, the family's story gained national attention and donations poured in. But soon, Hinman's in-laws — Jeffrey and Kim Blaisdell — discovered that much of the money had gone missing.
In April 2015, Hinman admitted to forging and cashing multiple checks from the account that held the donations. He pleaded guilty to two felonies — third-degree grand larceny and second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument — for stealing $45,300 in funds.
At the time, the 31-year-old Weedsport native had agreed to pay the full restitution prior to sentencing. But, after failing to make any payments — and failing to spend time with his daughters — Hinman was sentenced to six months in jail and five years probation, provided he pay restitution and successfully complete drug treatment court.
"It's very easy to put a father in jail who hasn't been a father to these kids," Leone said during sentencing in 2015. "You've got two living, breathing daughters who are your only connection to your wife, and you don't visit them."
Still, Hinman said he was a changed man at sentencing, telling Leone he was better off "physically, mentally and spiritually" since receiving treatment for an addiction to painkillers.
"I just want a chance to prove to you that there's a different man before you now," Hinman said.
Now years later, both Hinman's in-laws and the district attorney said nothing has changed.
Since his sentencing, Hinman has allegedly violated the conditions of his probation several times. Those violations began less than a month after his first release from jail, as he was incarcerated again in November 2015 for undisclosed reasons. Then, a day after his release in December 2015, he was arrested and charged with driving with a suspended license.
Most recently, Hinman was remanded to Cayuga County Jail on May 15, 2017, for failing to show up to felony drug treatment court with Judge Michael McKeon. In addition, the Blaisdells said he has remained absent from his daughters' lives, seeing the twins a total of 88 hours in the past two years.
"At this point (Jenna's family) thinks holding (Hinman) accountable is more important than getting the money back," Budelmann said. "We've given him a lot of different opportunities and he just continues to not do the things he needs to do."
"How many times can you rehabilitate someone if they don't want to be rehabilitated?" Kim Blaisdell said. "How many times can someone violate probation before justice is served? ... Where is justice?"
Defense attorney David Elkovitch was assigned to Hinman's case late last week. Elkovitch said he believed Hinman was up to date on his restitution payments, but stressed that he is new to the case and could not confirm how much Hinman still owes.
According to Budelmann, the current balance on Hinman's restitution is roughly $32,200. Hinman was ordered to pay $850 a month beginning in November 2015. To date, he has made eight payments totaling around $13,000 — approximately $3,300 behind schedule.
Meanwhile, Budelmann said there is a violation of probation petition pending which includes roughly a dozen allegations, such as missed probation meetings, drug use and failure to appear in court. Budelmann noted that he would like to see Hinman's case go back before Judge Leone, where the 34-year-old could face prison for his latest violation.
Hinman is due to appear again in drug court with Judge McKeon on Monday, June 11.