500-pound forger ordered by judge to choose diet or prison

January 12, 1995|By Knight-Ridder News Service

WICHITA, Kan. -- A judge has ordered a Wichita man into a halfway house to lose weight because he blew his court-ordered diet.

After a short hearing to determine whether Arthur Younkin had violated his probation by cheating on his diet, Sedgwick County District Judge Clark Owens offered the 500-pound man a choice on Tuesday: go to prison or go to the halfway house and stick to a 1,200-calorie-a-day diet.

Mr. Younkin, upset by what he calls discrimination, reluctantly agreed to go into the Community Corrections residential program and try to lose weight.

"I almost took prison. I sure thought about it hard," he said after the hearing. "It's immaterial whether I want to lose weight. No one has the right to tell me to."

Judge Owens ruled that he does have the right to order Mr. Younkin to lose weight. Mr. Younkin's weight, 507 pounds last week, directly affects whether he will be able to keep working and pay the $11,000 restitution he owes, the judge said.

Mr. Younkin, 44, was convicted in 1991 of forging 20 checks.He )) was sentenced to probation and ordered to pay back the money.

But by April, he had paid little of it. Mr. Younkin explained to Judge Owens that he couldn't get a job because of his weight.

So Judge Owens made a strict diet part of Mr. Younkin's probation conditions and sent him to a halfway house. Mr. Younkin lost 50 to 60 pounds, got a job and since then has been making his $120-a-month restitution payments.

But once he was let out of the halfway house in September, he started gaining weight again, about 20 pounds in all. Although he was making his monthly payments, the Community Corrections supervisors filed allegations that not only was Mr. Younkin cheating on his diet, he was lying about it, too. Judge Owens ordered a hearing on the violations and threatened prison.

Mr. Younkin complained that Judge Owens' decision could cause him to lose his telemarketing job because he'll have a harder time getting to and from work now that he has to live in the halfway house. Worse, he said, is that it disregards how hard it is for him to lose weight.

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