By Sunny Zhou
WOODLAND, CA – Yolo County Superior Court Judge Daniel M. Wolk set bail at $30,000 this week for a man charged with two counts of assault with a deadly weapon after he allegedly attacked his mother with a knife and an ax because he believed “blue, six legged aliens” were gestating inside of her.
The court heard that the man only stopped when his mother’s boyfriend intervened by throwing a table at him.
The man, who had been free on no bail pretrial release, was taken back into custody by Probation Officer Noe Lopez for having violated the terms of his release, which included attending mental health counseling and taking medication.
Deputy Public Defender Ron Johnson argued for the man’s release on the basis that ”[a]side from the communication with his service provider that he didn’t want to take one of the two medications he was on any longer, he had no other violations of his SOR…he was complying and going to meetings and on the right track.”
Johnson said he had recently advised his client to communicate with his service provider about side effects instead of stopping on his own.
Johnson noted the accused “is still welcome to live with his grandmother, which is where the plan was originally…The goal here and the end that we are hoping [is] that he’s going to be on some sort of diversion program.”
Earlier, the defense pointed out that the maximum exposure for the accused’s alleged crime is five years, but the man had already served six years in custody.
DPD Johnson said, “The State has no interest in keeping him in custody any more, because he has literally served more time than he could possibly serve in a worst case scenario after trial.”
Johnson stated the only lingering issue was ongoing discussions with the district attorney over what diversion program the man should be in, and asked for the accused to be re-released on his own recognizance.
“[T]he whole process of him being on SOR is working because…we know he didn’t take his medications, we can get him back on track. If he were simply released into the community without supervised OR the court wouldn’t know what’s happening and we wouldn’t be on good track to get him into the diversion program,” argued the public defender.
Wolk questioned Johnson as to what problems occur when the man goes off medication, and Johnson responded, “[T]he allegations were that he had assaulted his mother with a knife because he believed that alien babies were being…gestated by his mother. That’s what led to the not guilty by reason of insanity plea. He has no record other than that.”
The defense also stated, “One of the conditions [of release] is that he not live with his mom, because his mom also suffers, I believe, from some mental illness…He’s been abiding by that condition.”
Deputy District Attorney Ryan Couzens argued that refusing to take medication was proof that the accused was a public safety risk, noting that in July 2022, a Yolo County jury “found unanimously that he was a danger to others and needed to still be confined.”
Couzens argued medication has continuously been a problem for the accused: “He…has engaged in cheating his medication. It has been an issue off and on and he knows that it’s an issue.”
Couzens brought up a status report from the Napa Hospital the accused was committed to, and “notes” that the man was “[e]xpressing ideations about hurting others” and “wanting to eat bodily fluids and dirt from the yard and smearing his blood on the wall.” And that the accused was given involuntary “on the spot medications…23 times.”
“We were hopeful there would be some kind of a diversion that would fit, [but] he did not want to do a conditional release program…so here we are back now…” said Couzens, who said in December 2022, when the court grant SOR, the accused following medication and treatment was a key issue.
Couzens said to the judge, “I don’t know if the court has the supervised OR revocation in front of you, but he said, ‘I like being in the manic state.’”
“He’s not malicious, I think we established in the trial that he does these things because he thinks he’s helping people, but he operates under some extremely serious and unresolved delusional activity that he’s not addressing with medications because like he said in the report, certain medications affect him in a certain way. But all medications dealing with mental health issues have side effects,” noted DDA Couzens.
For these reasons, Couzens added, “[T]he People can’t in good conscience recommend anything other than him being detained. It’s not about punishment at this point; it’s about protecting the public and if he’s kept in with his unresolved issues then he’s not going to be at risk to the public.”
When asked by Judge Wolk if Couzens had been in contact with the victim about the medication issue, he replied, “I would respectfully submit…she would absolutely want him released. And I would just as respectfully submit, as Mr. Johnson alluded to, I think she is actually part of the precipitating problems for (the accused).”
To this point, DPD Johnson responded, “I literally spoke with the victim yesterday, she absolutely wants him released, she absolutely wants nothing to do with prosecution, and she left me multiple voicemails today.”
Johnson continued, “I can’t find a case that says you have to grant OR when someone has exceeded statutory max exposure. But what in effect the People want to do here is increase punishment beyond max statutory amount.”
“The People want to extend it because (the accused) wants to either fight the charges or apply some statutory right against diversion. He is suffering additional time to exercise those rights, but I suspect there is a very strong due process argument to be made that the court is outside its jurisdiction to continue to detain him.”
Johnson stressed, “If he is a danger to himself or others, there are civil commitments that can be put in place in order to detain him civilly.”
Judge Wolk asked if that had been explored. Couzens responded no. “You mean us doing a conservatorship or something like that? That’s not something we would necessarily initiate…that’s initiated ultimately by the public guardian or the LPS conservatorship.”
Couzens continued, “This situation is no different than…if someone is held in custody pending trial and the credits would outstrip how much time they have.” He reiterated it wasn’t about punishment for exercising his rights, but concern for public safety.
Judge Wolk prompted Officer Lopez to speak.
Officer Lopez stated that on the day prior to the accused’s arrest, he told him he was taking his medication.
“He had up to that point appeared to have done everything fine. It was merely the next morning that I received communication from his provider stating, ‘We’re concerned, he in fact told us he’s discontinuing one of them because he only wants to take things he deems homeopathic.’
“He was not exhibiting any behaviors which were concerning to the public up until this point,” Officer Lopez stated, “but the fact that…he’s telling us now he does not want to take that medication, we have no way as a department to ensure that he takes it…I can’t stand with him every evening and watch him put it in his mouth.”
Judge Wolk asked if there were any non-financial conditions that could be imposed. Officer Lopez responded that it would have to be a setting where taking medication was regulated, monitored and observed.
Judge Wolk asked whether the accused was a danger to himself or others when he was off his medication. Officer Lopez replied, “He does present a public safety risk based on this offense he’s pending and from what he told me…that he does enjoy his manic moods.”
To this, APD Johnson interjected. ”We’re acting like stopping the medication is where the danger happens. Danger happens when he decompensates after stopping taking medication. His grandmother is here in the courtroom, they…know how to contact probation and say he is decompensating.”
Referring to Officer Lopez, Johnson said,”[He] will absolutely be taking steps to remove (the accused) from the house, if he…becomes a danger..”
“I think it’s a fallacy to keep talking about whether or not the act of stopping the medication is the actual thing that’s going to be dangerous, and we do have some checks in place in order to make sure that if he start decompensating…everyone knows who to call, and we can go pick him up,” added the public defender.
Judge Wolk asked Couzens, ”Are you asking the court to in spite of Humphrey, make the requisite findings and set bail while SOR’s already been preliminarily revoked?” (Humphrey refers to a California Supreme Court ruling that bail can’t be set at such a level that the defendant is kept in custody simply for an inability to pay.)
Couzens confirmed this and reiterated that even though the victim would want him to be released, “[t]here is so much documentation of an unwillingness to…comply with the medication in particular.”
Judge Wolk set bail at $30,000. “I think Mr. Johnson’s making good points, but at the end of the day I do believe that bail is warranted here.”