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VALENCIA -An ex-convict who went from being a medically/honorably discharged Marine to an imprisoned drug smuggler urged 2,500 teens during student assemblies at Valencia High School on Thursday to chart a better course in life than he did.
Since his release from an Arkansas state prison four years ago. Dale "Mad Dog" Messmer has been on a crusade, to help prevent youths from making bad decisions that could follow - and torment - them the rest of their lives.

The goateed, tattooed man with the shaved head aimed much of his message at the 12th-graders, who, as they turn 18, will soon be old enough to go to college, enter the full-time work force - or, in a worst-case scenario, be prosecuted as an adult.

Several new laws that will take effect in January, Messmer told them, crack down on young offenders with harsh sentences once reserved for career criminals.

"Some of the choices you're going to deal with in the very near future are going to affect the rest of your life," Messmer, 54, said to the crowd packed into the campus gymnasium. They say I have an IQ of I30, which didn't prevent me from making a stupid choice."

Messmer's life was on the right track at the beginning. He graduated from high school, worked and attended college in the central Kansas area until his enlistment in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Messmer established a successful air charter business, which soured when he took a job shuttling cocaine for a company linked to Pablo Escobar, the infamous Colombian drug lord. "It wound up costing me everything on this earth I cared about." he said outside the assembly, "I spent 10 years, eight months and 11 days in the penitentiary. All it took me to get there was one stupid choice," he said.

Messmer recounted details of his capture by federal drug agents and related several harrowing aspects of incarceration.  And, he told his teen audience even though he served his time and has dramatically changed his ways, he isn't a free man. Still under the cloud of parole, one misstep such as a speeding ticket could violate the terms of his release and get him sent back to prison, Messmer said.

Gene Beeh, 17, said Messmer's 50-minute lecture made an impact on him.  "A guy who was really down in the dumps turned his life around. and now he's teaching kids so they don't do the same thing," the Valencia High senior said. "It taught me not to do stupid stuff."

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