The Sheriff's intake at the San Diego Central Jail is shown on March 11, 2021. (Zoë Meyers/inewsource)

A judge released decorated Navy SEAL Nathanael Roberti from custody Monday following a tumultuous year in and out of the courtroom, including a nearly fatal overdose at a troubled drug rehab center that is facing investigations from oversight agencies.

In September, Roberti pleaded guilty to stealing a U-Haul truck and was accepted into Veterans Treatment Court, which helps veterans address underlying addiction and trauma connected to their time in service.

The court agreed to send Roberti to a rehab program run by Veterans Village of San Diego on the condition that he stay sober — a rule he wasn’t able to follow.

In April, Roberti was found unconscious at Veterans Village and revived with the opioid overdose medication Narcan. inewsource wrote about the incident, as well widespread drug use and other safety issues plaguing the drug treatment campus, in a June investigation.

Facing possible jail time for his relapse, Roberti fled from the authorities. For weeks, he couldn’t be reached by friends or law enforcement. Police issued a warrant for his arrest. 

After he finally resurfaced in July, Roberti withdrew himself from treatment and returned to criminal court to be sentenced for the U-Haul theft.

A San Diego Superior Court record describes former Navy SEAL Nathanael Roberti’s conditions for release from jail.

On Monday, the mustachioed veteran stood behind a pane of glass and looked on quietly as the judge reviewed his case.

“You’re unique,” Superior Court Judge Daniel Link told him. “This is all unique.”

Explore the project

Read, watch and listen to our investigation into Veterans Village of San Diego here.

Roberti was one of few survivors on a 2005 SEAL Team mission, when the Taliban shot down a U.S. helicopter and killed at least 11 people. He was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, which honors military personnel for their heroism and achievements.

Since leaving the armed forces, Roberti has struggled with addiction, homelessness and post-traumatic stress.

“I’m super in awe of what you’ve done for our country,” the judge said. “You do things that, frankly, people like me could never do.”

Boxes of Narcan, which can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, are shown in San Diego County, Calif., on Oct. 27, 2021. (Tania Thorne/KPBS)

But, the judge warned — “I’m concerned about you overdosing and being found dead somewhere.”

Roberti told the court that he started using substances at Veterans Village a month into his time at the treatment center, and he understood he made a mistake.

“I blew it,” he said. “I blew Vet Court. I have a drug problem.”

The court sentenced Roberti to two years of probation and requested the veteran be released from jail the same day.

The former Navy SEAL said he had an income and family to rely on, and he would be leaning on some of his old comrades to help him with his sobriety.

“I know you’re capable of doing this,” the judge told him. “The things you’ve seen, most people haven’t. You’re one of the rare people who have that mental fortitude.”

Type of Content

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Jill Castellano is a former investigative data coordinator for inewsource. When she's not deep in a spreadsheet or holed up reporting and writing her next story, she's probably hiking, running or rock climbing. She also loves playing board games and discussing the latest chapters with her book club....