COURT WATCH: Judge Denies Release of Accused with No Criminal History on Assumption Mentally Ill Man Will Fail to Appear at Future Court Dates

By Madison Whittemore 

WOODLAND, CA – After noting someone shouldn’t be held in jail because of mental illness, visiting Judge Christopher Chandler reversed himself Wednesday here in Yolo County Superior Court and denied a defense request to release a mentally ill man pretrial, citing concerns the accused may fail to appear at future court dates despite having no history of doing so.

The accused is charged with assault by force likely to produce great bodily injury after an incident that occurred less than a week ago on July 29, when the accused allegedly picked up an object and attempted to strike the alleged victim (his mother) in the back of the head after she slammed a door.

Besides this incident, the accused has no prior criminal history, according to Deputy Public Defender Monica Brushia, who requested the court release the accused on supervised own recognizance (SOR)—meaning that the accused can be released from custody under certain conditions without paying bail.

However, DPD Brushia noted the accused does suffer from an unspecified “severe mental illness” that requires medication, which he is refusing to take.

During Wednesday’s arraignment hearing, certified law student Steven Rivet—supervised by Deputy District Attorney Carolyn Palumbo—requested a criminal protective order (CPO) that ordered the accused to stay away from and not harass the alleged victim.

Judge Chandler filed the CPO order and asked Rivet about what his opinion on the custody status of the accused should be.

“The defendant in this case has severe mental illness, which is not medicated and in this case, led to a violent event,” Rivet asserted, explaining that the prosecution opposes the release of the accused.

Rivet called the accused’s mother to address the court about her opinions on the matter of her son’s release.

“I think (the accused) needs to…get stabilized on his medication (and) get some counseling” the witness explained to the judge, showing support for the accused’s release and clarifying she was referring to the Sacramento Mental Health Treatment Center (SMHTC), a mental hospital.

When questioned by Judge Chandler about where the accused would reside upon SOR release, DPD Brushia acknowledged that while the accused is not welcome at his mother’s house, he could get assistance in Sacramento for his mental health issues.

“There should be some availability to place him into some suitable placements,” DPD Brushia noted, adding, “Based on his lack of criminal history, I would ask that the court reconsider releasing him with perhaps an order that he report to Yolo County mental health.”

Not denying the fact the accused suffers from mental illness, Judge Chandler cited that “mental illness, of course, is not a reason to keep someone in custody.”

The judge continued, conceding that the accused is a first-time offender, yet still noting his concerns regarding the accused failing to appear at future court dates if he were to be released from custody.

“I am concerned about the defendant’s ability to show up in court even though he does not have a record,” Judge Chandler concluded, despite the fact that the accused has never failed to appear in court and, in addition, never given any indication that he would fail to appear for Wednesday’s court date because of his mental illness.

Regardless, Judge Chandler ultimately denied DPD Brushia’s request to release the accused on SOR to “assure his presence in court,” meaning that the accused will remain in jail with bail set at $20,000—per the prosecution’s request.

The matter is set for a preliminary hearing Aug. 16.

About The Author

Madison Whittemore is a rising junior at the University of California, Davis where she studies political science and psychology. After completing her undergraduate studies, Madison wants to go to law school and study criminal law while working to improve efforts for prison reform and representation for lower income citizens.

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