By Julietta Bisharyan
HUMBOLDT – During a preliminary hearing in Humboldt County Superior Court, the defendant’s post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnosis was presented as a mitigating reason in his domestic violence case.
The defendant, Daniel Wallaker, is charged with inflicting corporal injury on his girlfriend.
Through the Zoom livestream, the defendant’s psychiatrist, Dr. Katy Wilson, informed the court that Wallaker has been diagnosed with PTSD and suffers from substance abuse.
According to police reports read by Wilson, on Nov. 23, 2018, Wallaker was out drinking with his friends when he came home and passed out on the couch. His girlfriend then abruptly woke him up, yelling at him after finding a broken mirror in their bathroom.
An argument ensued immediately, later turning physical. Wallaker’s girlfriend began hitting him multiple times on the head with a bathroom scale and shovel. He pushed her against the wall and hit her back. Wilson described his reaction as his “fight or flight response.”
The alleged victim escaped through the bathroom window and ran to the neighbors. Once the neighbors came inside, Wallaker attacked the neighbor and his wife, asking them for his keys and phone, so he could leave. They refused to give him his items, and shortly called the police.
Wilson suggested that during the incident Wallaker felt frightened and was trying to defend himself after being physically and verbally attacked by his girlfriend.
Back in 2014, when the defendant was 24, he attended a substance abuse treatment program, which helped stop his use of heroin. In 2016, he was in a motor vehicle accident and sustained a head injury and concussion.
A year later, in 2017, he arrived at the Humboldt County Mental Health Service Center with his mother, who reported that Wallaker suffers from a history of PTSD, anger, paranoia, anxiety and homelessness. He was then officially diagnosed with PTSD and referred to case management and psychiatric treatment.
In the time leading up to the offense at hand, Wallaker failed to maintain follow-up treatment and his mental health case was subsequently closed in 2018. However, while he was in custody for a different charge in September 2018—dissuading a witness, he received services from the jail mental health staff.
The jail mental health team told Wilson that Wallaker showed signs of paranoia and insisted that people were plotting against him. He requested special services multiple times while in custody but did not see a psychiatrist.
The defendant had no treatment between the time he was released from custody in October 2018 and his new offense in November. He was also not taking any medication for his PTSD.
“If Mr. Wallaker were to receive frequent services from county mental health, is it your opinion that his diagnosis can be safely treated in the community?” asked Deputy Public Defender David Celli.
“It is,” Wilson responded.
Deputy District Attorney Roger Rees then asked her if the defendant would pose a risk to the community if he left the treatment program or relapsed.
“It’s possible,” she said.
After Dr. Wilson was dismissed, Celli asked the defendant if he would consent to the terms of diversion if the court granted it to him, and if he would waive his right to a speedy trial to engage with those services.
“Do you understand that?” added Judge Joyce D. Hinrichs.
“Yes sir—I mean ma’am,” said Wallaker, quickly correcting himself.
During the counsel’s arguments, Celli said that the defendant’s PTSD is a significant factor in the alleged domestic violence conduct and could be treated with medication and counseling.
As shown by his answers, Celli believes that Wallaker is ready to have those services if the court gives him the opportunity. He cited Wallaker’s time in custody and back in 2014 when he kicked his drug habit (despite replacing it with alcohol). With the appropriate services, the defendant could get out of the criminal justice system and live a productive life.
“The doctor’s report speaks for itself,” Celli concluded.
On the contrary, Rees argued that Wallaker is not suitable for diversion. Returning to 2014, Rees believes that the defendant knew of his abuse problem for four years and should have addressed it instead of consuming alcohol.
Rees also reiterated Wallaker’s failures to keep up with his treatment, which led to his mental health case being closed in early 2018, adding, “Although Dr. Wilson wouldn’t say it, past behavior is a good indicator of future behavior.”
In response to Wallaker’s earlier consenting to the terms of diversion, Rees said that the defendant only said that because he is looking at a lengthy prison sentence and it would be silly to answer any differently.
In the past, Wallaker has been charged with a dozen offenses, including residential burglary with the person present and assault with a deadly weapon. Rees asserts that a diversion would be “an insult to the victims to let Wallaker meet with a therapist a few times a week, take some medication, and go about his life.”
Judge Hinrichs concluded that there is sufficient evidence to show that the defendant is suitable for treatment and should be placed on diversion.
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