Judge Balances Veteran’s Mental Health and Public Safety

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By Alexander Jimenez  

DUBLIN, CA – After lengthy argument here in Alameda County Superior Court this last week, veteran Jay Robert Soliven won consideration of his vet status and was released without bail to prepare for a treatment program with the Veterans Administration, probably through Veterans Court.

Defense attorney Daniel Shriro argued that the Superior Court should have Soliven seek out services through the Veterans Administration, noting, “What we can do now is have him start taking advantage of those services whether or not he gets accepted into Veterans Court.”  

Judge Colin Bowen acknowledged Soliven’s military service and mental health issues but raised  concerns regarding public safety. It was explained that Soliven was going through crises during  the time of the offense, as opposed to having a criminal history. 

Judge Bowen addressed the defense, “It seems as though he’s in some sort of crisis. My  concern and the thing I would like you to address is the public safety analysis that I have to do.” 

APD Shriro identified the use of methamphetamine as the turning point in the offense, explaining  that Soliven had been dealing with his mental health issues fairly well without support from the VA up until he started self-medicating.  

The defense emphasized the importance of ensuring that Soliven receives drug treatment and external support available to him through the VA, while the judge reiterated his preference to  have some sort of mechanism in place to ensure that Soliven goes through the program.  

There was further discussion about Soliven’s eligibility to be put in a military court, which was the  preference of both the judge and the defense. The judge was unclear, however, whether or not the DA’s office would have to agree to put Soliven in military court. 

Shriro elaborated that getting services through the DA was imperative to address the issue with or without the military court approval, maintaining, “I think in this county it’s treated as if the DA has to agree to it but under the statute, diversion is available whether or not the DA agrees to it.” 

The judge contemplated releasing Soliven, but instead focused on ensuring that there was a robust plan in place so that he would be able to follow through with treatment.

“There’s no  insurance that he has services that would be able to accomplish keeping himself safe and keeping the public safe because this is a pretty scary scenario and is very unprovoked and random that’s the thing I’m looking for.” 

The defense deferred to Veterans Court Case Manager Linsey Scott, and she said she had assessed Soliven and concluded that he is not only eligible for the program but also willing to participate and go through the program.

“With respect to amenability to treatment and suitability for the program I have recommended that he is eligible under my assessment,” Scott said. 

Judge Bowen asked about the defendant’s amenability, and Scott assured him that Soliven’s willingness to follow the recommended treatment plan and abide by the various requirements of  the Veterans Court reflects his amenability.  

Deputy District Attorney Angelina Clay expressed her concerns with his adherence to this program, to which the judge agreed that “in order for Mr. Soliven to be released there should be more in place and more stability”.  

After working out the logistics, Judge Bowen opted for a 14-day own recognizance (no bail) to East Oakland Recovery Center to ensure that Soliven would be prepared for transportation and initiation into the VA program. 

As a condition of his release, Soliven is ordered to comply with all the directives of the program and representatives from the VA. 

Alex Jimenez is a court watch reporter for The Vanguard at Berkeley. He is a senior Political Science major at UC Berkeley. He is from Pleasanton, CA.


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