A young man who broke into a police chief's house to steal stuff for drug money says that was the luckiest mistake he ever made.

Brian Thomas Rogers, who is now 26, was arrested in July 2011 after breaking into Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen's house in West Ashley. Instead of being sent to jail, Rogers was put in a program run by the Charleston County Drug Court.

Rogers graduated from the program Wednesday, dressed in a dark suit, white shirt and light blue tie, accompanied by emotional family members. The chief was also there to shake his hand and give a pep talk.

An officer of the court read a document declaring that Rogers' guilty plea was withdrawn and all charges dismissed.

"It saved my life," Rogers said when it was his chance to stand up.

His father, Brian Rogers of Las Vegas, was more emotional.

"I thought he was going to die," the burly public-safety officer said through tears. "I tried everything. It was a relief when he was arrested. I can't thank you enough. . Some people say drug court is not worth the money. . He's alive today because of this court."

Judge Irvin Condon oversees the court like a concerned father. Before the graduation ceremony, he called up several dozen other offenders in groups of three or four, getting progress reports and encouraging them to keep trying.

"We'll work with you," he told a young woman standing in front of him. "The main thing you need to do is show up and be honest."

Each offender has a list of requirements that includes work, restitution, treatment, meetings, fees, education, community service and regular urine or hair tests for drug use.

Mullen called it one of the most successful drug courts in the nation. He gave a talk to the offenders as part of the graduation ceremony.

"Do not waste this opportunity," he told them. "You're one of the lucky ones."

Mullen said Rogers called him several times to apologize.

"I can tell you he has changed his way of thinking," Mullen said.

Rogers gave the chief a giant mock check for $1,126, representing how much he repaid for the items he stole from his house.

He said he is finishing an associate degree and is considering what college to attend. Even the officers of the court were wiping their eyes.

Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553.