Army officer blames medication mixup for shoplifting incident — (USA TODAY)

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Jan 18, 2010

By Douglas Stanglin,

 A U.S. Army lieutenant colonel facing court-martial on a shoplifting charge blames the Army for mistakenly reducing the medicine he takes to curb his urge to steal.

Lt. Col. Rodney Page, a 28-year Army veteran, admits to stealing $37 worth of challenge coins at the Fort Benning, Ga., post exchange but says he is a kleptomaniac,  the Army Times reports.

“That impulse is so strong that it just overrides your common sense,” Page, 58, tells the Times  in recalling the theft. “I am ethical, even though I have this problem. I’ve never taken anything from anyone I know. You can leave money on the table; I’m never going to touch it.”

A prior conviction for stealing sandals and flags from a PX in Kuwait is the “main factor” in Maj. Gen. Mike Ferriter’s decision to court-martial Page, the Army says. Page received 60 days’ confinement, fines and a reprimand in the 2008 incident.

This time, the full court-martial on charges of larceny and conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman, rather than the “administrative separation” recommended by the investigating officer, could cost Page his retirement.

Page’s attorney confirms that the Kuwait incident led to the diagnosis that Page was a kleptomaniac.

According to hearing documents, psychiatrists prescribed 150 mg per day of Zoloft, an anti-anxiety drug, to deal with the problem, but a different Army doctor in March refilled it at 100 mg per day without explanation.

Lawrence Correnti, a colonel and staff psychiatrist at the post, told a preliminary hearing that the mistake “may have contributed” to the shoplifting incident.

Page says that in the months leading up to the theft, he experienced an anxiety and fogginess that he attributes to the medication mixup. He alerted his squad leader, but he says he was ignored.

“If they had sent me to mental health, this never would have happened,” Page says, arguing that “the system let me down.”

“The Army has a way of eating its own, and I’m one they want to gobble up,” Page tells the Times.