Parties Disagree over Necessity of 2nd Mental Health Evaluation for Military Vet Charged with Armed Robbery

By Maia Surendra

SANTA BARBARA, CA – At the preliminary hearing for Russell Wallace here Thursday, presided over by Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Brian Hill, Deputy District Attorney Adam Howland expressed the need for another mental health evaluation of the defendant prior to any sentencing.

DDA Howland said another mental health evaluation, to be done by an entity outside of either the prosecution or defense, should be completed due to the nature of the crime.

On Sept. 7, 2020, police received a call about an armed robbery that took place at a Mobil station located near La Cumbre Ave. and State St. in Santa Barbara (Palminteri 2020). Police were able to stop the suspect on the 101 freeway and he surrendered; a handgun, assault rifle, magazines, knife, vest, and helmet were also all found in his vehicle (Palminteri 2020).

Wallace previously served in the military, and because of all of the weapons found with him, as well as him “pointing a gun to someone’s face and robbing them,” DDA Howland believes that Wallace needs another mental health evaluation to see if PTSD could be the driving force behind his actions.

However, Public Defender Richard Steele did not agree that another mental health evaluation needed to be done, and believed it would slow proceedings down.

PD Steele said he had already received a report from Behavioral Wellness in regard to Wallace, and asked for more time to determine the legal code and who to appoint to do the mental health evaluation.

During the proceedings, there was much back and forth between DDA Howland, PD Steele, and Judge Hill.

There were interruptions, as well as requests from Judge Hill for both sides at times to hold their thoughts. At one point during the proceeding, PD Steele said he would give DDA Howland a call and “see if they could work it out like gentlemen.”

Later in the hearing, the plea deal was reviewed by DDA Howland and Wallace. Wallace pleaded guilty to second degree robbery, possession of an assault weapon, and carrying a loaded firearm.

The court will reconvene in regard to Wallace’s case, and there will be the selection of a mental health professional to help the defendant.

About The Author

Maia Surendra is a fourth year student at UC Santa Barbara who is majoring in Sociology and minoring in History. She is originally from Westchester County, NY, and would love to do something related to the law after graduation.

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