In 2006, Derrick Kosch made a spectacular mistake.
But nearly six years later, the 29-year-old, who made national news when he was videotaped accidentally shooting himself during a robbery attempt, is getting a second chance.
With local elected officials, two judges and several fellow offenders watching Monday, Kosch became the second graduate of the county’s Re-Entry Court Program.
Kosch was released last Jan. 10 from the Indiana Department of Correction, after serving three years for the armed robbery of a Kokomo Village Pantry.
Kokomo residents remember him as the man who accidentally fired a handgun into his own groin.
But after having spent the past 11 months keeping his nose clean, Kosch received notice Monday for a much less dubious achievement.
He’ll now serve the remainder of his sentence on unsupervised probation, thanks to a sentence modification order from Howard Superior Court 1 Judge Bill Menges — the same judge who sentenced Kosch back in 2007.
“I hope by coming this far, you can see a new person in me,” Kosch told Menges at a celebration Monday at the Howard County Government Annex.
“You are a different person than the man I sent to prison, and I’m hopeful I’m never going to have to do that again,” Menges returned.
So far, nine offenders from Howard County are enrolled in the re-entry program, where they’ll spend between a year and 18 months being monitored on a regular basis, subjected to frequent drug screens and offered help with life’s problems.
The last piece of that equation is what’s often missing from re-entry programs. Human contact — encouragement, job advice, help with resumes, direction when temptation comes calling — is time intensive.
But Menges believes — and national studies have shown — that intensive one-on-one work can keep offenders from return trips.
Menges also oversees the county’s Drug Court program, which gives addicts accused of drug-related offenses a way to stay clean and avoid prison. Both the drug court and re-entry programs share similar philosophies, methods and some of the same court-appointed facilitators.
When offenders leave prison, they get transportation home and a little bit of money, Menges said.
“The vast majority get a hotel room and a nice meal, and then they have no money left. They get back in contact with their friends, and the next thing you know they reoffend and they’re back in prison.”
For Kosch, keeping out of trouble meant leaving behind old acquaintances. He’s held a janitorial job since he’s been out, and he looks forward to having his own apartment, his own car, and his teenage son come and live with him.
He found himself at a Village Pantry with a loaded gun, he said, because he’d lost a job, a car, a phone contract, and was feeling guilty that he was living with a woman rent-free.
“I just wanted to be able to provide, to be able to say I can contribute,” he said.
After he shot himself, the surveillance video became a staple on “dumbest criminals” shows.
“It was sad, because I knew my family had to endure hardship because of it, that I put a burden on them,” he said. “It was shameful and embarrassing, and I think anyone with a good heart would feel that way about it.”
The lesson learned, he said, is to “just wait — God is there, and there’s a brighter day, no matter how bad it gets.”
Megan Bond, programs facilitator with Howard County Community Corrections, said Kosch has so far made a smooth transition back into society.
But most people going into the program have a slip-up at some point. Drugs are often a problem, and relapse is almost expected.
But offenders in the program sign waivers, giving up their rights to a lengthy legal process for violations of program rules.
That means facilitators can send them off to jail for short stays for violations like dirty drug screens, rather than go through a process of filing a complaint with a prosecutor and waiting for a judge to issue a warrant.
“We didn’t have to do, honestly, very much with him, because he’s doing what he’s supposed to be doing,” Bond said of Kosch.
• Scott Smith is a Kokomo Tribune staff writer. He may be reached at 765-454-8569 or via e-mail at scott.smith@ kokomotribune.com