By Esmeralda Mendoza
On Friday May 31 a hearing was held for Jason Charles Jones, a man charged with battery on a person, and two witnesses, which included a doctor and social services worker, testified.
The hearing is believed to be the first of its kind, a diversion hearing under Penal Code section 1001.36. Under this code, people with mental disorders can receive “mental health diversion” and receive treatment when they are charged with a crime. Like other diversion programs, if they successfully complete the treatment, the criminal charges would be dismissed.
In fact it goes further – the record of the arrest would then be sealed and, for most purposes, it would be as though the arrest itself never occurred.
The hearing on Friday was called to determine if Mr. Jones qualified for such a diversion. The criteria for qualification are: the defendant suffers from a mental health condition, the disorder plays a significant role in the crime, they would respond to treatment, they waive their right to a speedy trial, they agree to treatment, and the risk of danger to the public is seen as small.
Dr. Walter Ebert was called to the stand by the defense attorney, Deputy Public Defender Dean Johansson, and asked to describe his evaluation of Mr. Jones’ mental health. Dr. Ebert met with Mr. Jones two times and also looked at his police reports, prison records, background history, and medical history, among other things, before he could write a written report about the case.
Dr. Ebert found that Mr. Jones suffered from severe alcoholism. Mr. Jones began drinking at a very young age and, when he’s not in custody, he is known to drink until he is extremely drunk.
Dr. Ebert also found that Mr. Jones’ primary problem was that he had an unspecified bipolar disorder. In custody, he was prescribed with medication to help him cope with his mood disorders, which included antidepressant and anti-psychotic pills. Dr. Ebert also described that Mr. Jones performs better under the medication and that he never refuses to take them.
Mr. Jones had lots of problems in school and could never hold a steady job. Although he has experimented with several drugs, Mr. Jones was never hooked onto a single one. Instead, he excessively used alcohol as an escape. Dr. Ebert explains that those can be factors of his mood disorder.
Other factors of Mr. Jones’ mood disorder are unusual ideas and his lack of ability to distinguish reality from fiction. Mr. Jones reported hearing voices in his head and told odd stories that could not have been reality.
Although Mr. Jones is being charged for assaulting a person, Mr. Ebert explained that, in his point of view, the defendant’s mental health played a significant role in the charged offense. Mr. Jones’ bizarre behavior was consistent at the time of the attack. Mr. Jones was yelling at cars, took his shirt off and began to take his shorts off, and picked a random victim to assault with his bag.
His behavior is consistent to that of a person who is severely mentally ill without medication and should be placed in the mental health court.
Next, the prosecutor began his cross-examination of the witness. Contrary to what the doctor had previously claimed, the prosecution showed Dr. Ebert that jail records indicate Mr. Jones had refused to take his medication two times.
Although the doctor was not aware of those incidents, he explained that refusing to take such strong medication two times is not a significant finding. Mr. Jones has been taking the pills for many years.
Then, Deana Steele, an adult social worker at the Yolo County’s Public Defender’s Office, was asked to testify. She explained that she created a general treatment plan for Mr. Jones. She also explained that Mr. Jones needs approval from the Health and Human Services Agency to get more help for his severe mental illness.
Mr. Jones’ case is set to resume June 13, 2019.