A two-year effort to get a combat veteran into an intensive prison alternative program hit a wall Thursday when an El Paso County judge sentenced him to eight years behind bars in the drunken shooting of an Army friend.

Former Staff Sgt. Cory Griffin, 27, was sentenced one day after El Paso County District Attorney Dan May fueled hopes for a different outcome by agreeing to an 11th-hour visit with Griffin’s advocates, who emphasized the soldier’s repeated diagnoses of severe post-traumatic stress disorder and outlined what they saw as gaps in the investigation.

May declined to intervene, however, deferring to senior prosecutor Brien Cecil, who earlier accused a psychologist of "drinking the Kool-Aid" in asserting that Griffin suffered from dissociative episodes brought on by bloody tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"They say they understand what our veterans go through, but I think this paints the picture that they speak out of both corners of their mouths," said Georg-Andreas Pogany of USJAG, a nonprofit that seeks to assist veterans after crimes triggered by combat stress.

The case involved conflicting accounts of a Nov. 9, 2014, shooting and dueling psychological evaluations from mental health experts.

Griffin’s looming prison sentence became a flashpoint in a dispute over admissions criteria for El Paso County’s Veterans Trauma Court, where prosecutors…

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