Arizona U.S. Marshal Killing Highlights Gaps in Mental Health Safety Net

28January
2019

The criminal justice and mental health services in Arizona often fail to help people with psychological problems until it’s too late. Recently, police said they struggled to deal with death threats from a man accused of killing a deputy U.S. marshal.

Ryan Schlesinger is the suspect in the killing of 41-year-old Chase White last November. The official was shot dead while serving a fugitive warrant in Tucson.

Mental health concerns are highlighted by U.S. Marshal killing

U.S. Marshal killing highlights mental health fears

Officers said they struggled to deal with alleged threats and mental health issues related to Schlesinger for more than a year, according to a report in AZCentral.  In late August 2018, officers went to Pima County Justice of the Peace Court to request harassment injunctions against Schlesinger and another man who was frequently seen by the police department’s mental health unit, according to the media report. It’s an unusual move by police officers.

Police said the men had allegedly harassed officers assigned to the mental health unit. At the hearing, before Justice of the Peace Paula Aboud, Sgt. Jason Winsky, who heads up the mental health unit, said his team investigated alleged threats and the mental health status of Schlesinger.

Aboud granted the injunction requested by the cops. It also prevented Schlesinger from possessing firearms.

Officers tried to get an order forcing Schlesinger into mental health treatment after the granting of the injunction but were ultimately unsuccessful. The AZ Central report stated they obtained an arrest warrant against him for stalking one of the two officers whose family members’ home he had visited.

Cops said they were concerned about Schlesinger’s behavior. Winsky testified in August 2017 that officers tried to contact Schlesinger and he barricaded himself in the house.

Sadly, the mental health and criminal justice systems in Arizona often fail to intervene until it is too late. People who have mental health issues may not get a fair trial.

It’s unfair for the criminal justice system to punish someone who lacks full control of his or her mental faculties. In any criminal proceeding, all of the circumstances related to a defendant’s behavior must be considered by the judicial system.

If you or a family member has a mental illness and is facing charges, please contact our Arizona criminal defense lawyers as soon as possible at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Mental Health, Violent Crime | Tagged |

Violent Crime Rises in Arizona as Overall Crime Falls

26December
2018

Crime has been falling in Arizona for at least six years, but violent crime in the state spiked last year, according to a new federal report.

Figures from the FBI’s annual Uniform Crime Report for 2017, which was released in September, revealed an overall drop of 1.4 percent in the state but a 7.9 percent rise in the violent crime rate.

Under the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting program, violent crime is made up of four offenses: murder and non-negligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. Violent crimes are defined as offenses that involve force or threat of force.

Concern as violent crime rises in Arizona

Violent crime rises in Arizona

According to the FBI report, the violent crime rate across the U.S. fell slightly by 0.9 percent in 2017. The decease followed a rise in previous years. The property crime rate in the United States fell by 3.6 percent.

Violent crimes rose by 9.5 percent last year in Arizona. The city of Phoenix accounted for much of the increase. In Phoenix, police recorded 1,800 more violent crimes in 2017 than in the previous year.

Phoenix police noted part of the rise in violent crime was linked to a change in the way figures are recorded. From 2014, definition changes have been made to aggravated assaults and rapes.

The uptick in violent crime in cities like Phoenix was expected by some academics. Michael S. Scott, a clinical professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Arizona State University, told AZCentral the types of offenses recorded in the annual report can vary greatly among towns and cities. Reporting practices within individual agencies that share information with the FBI also vary. He said:

“We’ve seen years in which murder was down significantly in some major cities and up in others. Local conditions (social, environmental, economic) largely dictate crime levels rather than national factors.”

Experts warn against comparing different cities where there may be variations in how crimes are compiled. Scott told AZCentral, the data should not be used to compare cities because there are many other factors that lead to variations from place to place. While the public is concerned about violent offenses, the report leaves out crimes like drug offenses.

Violent crimes such as homicides are among the most serious offenses you can be charged with. Homicides such as first-degree murder carry a life sentence in prison and prosecutors may seek the death penalty. Other homicides such as manslaughter, second-degree murder, and negligent homicide carry significant prison sentences. You should seek the help of an experienced Arizona homicide defense lawyer as soon as possible. Call the Garcia Law Firm at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Violent Crime | Tagged |

When is An Assault Elevated to an Aggravated Assault in Arizona?

6December
2018

Assault is one of the most common offenses in Arizona. Whether you are facing misdemeanor assault or felony aggravated assault charges, the consequences of the crime can serious and devastating on your life. Aggravated assault in Arizona should not be taken lightly.

Misdemeanor assault charges can be elevated to felonies when certain aggravating factors surround the assault. Aggravated assault crimes involve injury to another person and are taken seriously by the courts.

What is aggravated assault in Arizona

Defining aggravated assault in Arizona

It’s important to hire a defense lawyer from the outset in assault cases. The attorney will be able to introduce defenses such as whether your actions stemmed from a fear of attack or were in self-defense at an early stage.

The most common forms of assault in Arizona are simple assaults. These crimes range from a class 1 misdemeanor to a class 3 misdemeanor.

You can be charged with an assault without causing injury to anyone. A class 3 misdemeanor simply requires the state to prove that the defendant knowingly touched another person with the intent to injure, insult or provoke the other person. A mere light nudge or a poke can lead to an assault charge if it is a provocative gesture.

You can be charged with a class 2 misdemeanor assault for putting someone else in reasonable apprehension of imminent physical injury. This charge does not require you to even touch another individual. A threat of serious injury such as a raised fist or angry words can lead to an assault charge.

A class 1 misdemeanor assault can land you in jail for six months. It’s the most serious form of a misdemeanor because the state must prove you intended to cause physical injury, whether intentionally, recklessly or knowingly. The defendant must have caused a physical injury to be convicted of a class 1 misdemeanor but it can be a minor injury such as a bruise.

An aggravated assault in Arizona is a felony defined under A.R.S. § 13-1204 (A). In some cases, there may be a gray area between a misdemeanor assault and a felony assault. Defendants can serve up to 21 years in jail for an aggravated assault. You may be charged with an aggravated assault if you:

  1. Cause serious physical injury to another;
  2. Use a deadly weapon or dangerous object to use as a weapon in the crime;
  3. Commit assault by means of any force that leads to temporary but substantial disfigurement; broken bones, temporary but substantial loss, impairment of any bodily organ or another body part;
  4. Commit assault when the victim is physically restrained, bound, or while the victim’s capacity to resist the alleged assault is substantially impaired;
  5. Commit an assault on a child under 15 if you are over the age of 18;
  6. Assault someone after entering the private home of another with the intent to commit assault;
  7. Commit a misdemeanor assault in violation of a valid protection order or restraining order.
  8. Take a police officer’s firearm or other weapon or attempt to wrest it from the officer;
  9. Commit any level of assault against a police officer, peace officers, other law enforcement officials, public defenders or criminal prosecutors, firefighters, paramedics, teachers or school employees, or licensed health care professionals while they are on their job.

The state of Arizona can be relentless in prosecuting people accused of assault. In borderline cases, a simple assault is often elevated to an aggravated assault.

If you or a family member has been charged with aggravated assault in Arizona, we are available to talk to you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in English or Spanish. Please call us at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Violent Crime | Tagged |

Tent City to Become Rehab Center

18November
2017

Since the infamous Tent City was recently shut down, Sheriff Paul Penzone announced that an air-conditioned space previously apart of the jail will be turned into a facility to help treat those suffering from substance abuse and addiction. Transforming Tent City into a rehabilitation center is apart of an ongoing effort to help keep repeat offenders out of the prison system and will help them live normal, productive lives.

The rehabilitation center will have space for classrooms and places to sleep. Sheriff Paul Penzone recently spoke about the new facility and said, “we want to ensure that [chronic offenders] have an opportunity to be productive, to not return here to this jail. I hope that all those in our community recognize the investment that we are making to become a more holistic Sheriff’s Office.” Penzone hopes to reduce the rate of recidivism and come up with solutions that will get to the root of the problems many repeat offenders face such as drug addiction and mental illness.

There are also plans for a proposal that would include an employment center for inmates, as well as a community corrections center. Both of these announcements quickly followed the retirement of Tent City. Not only will the changes being made help repeat offenders in the long run, it will also reduce spending by almost $5 million each year. Penzone also hopes that the investments being made will decrease crime rates in Arizona.

The rehabilitation inmate program is seven weeks long and will help inmates to identify early trauma and patterns of behavior. These services will benefit many people who most likely do not have the resources to visit specialists on their own. Once the program is over, the inmates will be given resources to help make sure they have opportunities to succeed when they are out in the real world.

Photo by Лечение Наркомании

Posted in Arizona, Drug Crimes, Law Enforcement, Mental Health, Violent Crime | Tagged , , , , |

Statistics About Mental Health and Crime

23June
2016

Based on public opinion, many people believe that crime is almost always linked to mental illness. This does not always prove to be true, as most people with psychiatric disorders are not violent. In fact, only 3%-5% of violent acts can be attributed to individuals living with a serious mental illness. This article will distinguish what is myth and what is fact about the connection between mental illness and crime.

Common misconceptions about the correlations between crime and mental health

In the United States more than 1.2 million people with mental illness are incarcerated in jails or prisons, according to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics. But mental illness is not usually the only factor that leads someone to commit a crime. In a study of crimes committed by people with serious mental disorders, only 7.5 percent were directly related to symptoms of mental illness, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association. Below are common misconceptions about crime amongst the mentally ill.

  • Most mentally ill patients that do not abuse drugs or alcohol are no more likely to commit a violent act than people without a mental illness.
  • Mentally ill people that abuse substances are typically more likely to commit a crime
  • Patients with schizophrenia are less likely to exhibit violence than patients with other disorders
  • Mentally ill people typically only act violently at home toward family members rather than strangers
  • Studies show that mentally ill people are greater threats to themselves than other people, especially those suffering from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression, and alcoholism
  • About 10-15% of people with major depression die by their own hands
  • Individuals suffering from severe mental illness are far more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators of violence
  • One study showed that 25% of those with severe mental illness were victims of violence as compared to only 3% of the general population
  • A study of homeless people with severe mental illness indicated that 44% of them had been victims of violence during the previous two months

Although most people who commit multiple homicides are mentally ill, very few people with mental illness perpetrate such crimes. People with a mental illness need to be helped not feared.

Posted in Arizona, Mental Health Defenses, Violent Crime | Tagged , , |

Mental Health in the Spotlight in Drowning Case

9December
2015

A young mother in Avondale faces murder charges for the death of her two-year-old twin boys. The woman, who suffers from manic-depression, psychosis, and schizophrenia, told police that she drowned her boys in a bathtub because “nobody loved them and nobody loved her.” She claimed that she did not want her children to live a difficult life, and that she did not want her children to grow up facing the same mental demons that she faced. She said she believed it would be better for the boys to be at peace than to live with the same struggles she did. The woman also attempted to drown her 3-year-old stepbrother, but family members were able to intervene before he was killed. Family members claim the woman had recently been released from a hospital where she had been treated for mental illness. The woman had no previous criminal history, and was taking steps to handle her mental illness. The woman was also allegedly under the influence of drugs at the time of the drownings.

The first thing people ask when they hear a story like this one is WHY? HOW?? Sadly, when dealing with severe mental disorders, there are no logical explanations. According to USA TODAY, about 450 kids are killed each year by a parent. It is unclear how many of those killings may have been correlated with mental disorders.

So what is next for this woman? In any mental illness defense case, the defendant must first take a competency exam to determine if mental disease would be a significant mitigating factor in the case. Psychiatric history, previous hospital stays, medical records, and other factors would also be reviewed and evaluated. Since the drownings, the woman appeared in court and claimed not guilty to two counts of first degree murder and one count of attempted first degree murder. No further details are available at this time.

Read original article here.

Posted in Mental Health Defenses, Violent Crime |

Insanity Defense is Not for Everyone

21October
2015

Recently in Arizona, a jury rejected a Phoenix man’s insanity defense. The man was charged with shooting and killing his half-brother and his half-brother’s son. Allegedly, the man shot his half-brother in a drug dealing dispute, and then kidnapped and shot the 6-year-old son because the boy either witnessed or heard his father’s death. The man claimed that he was at school when the shootings took place, but interviews with the neighbors and evidence found quickly struck down the man’s alibi. Next, the man’s defense attorney claimed that the man had experienced a psychotic episode during the shootings. But it wasn’t proven that the man suffered from a mental disorder that would have prevented him from understanding that his actions were wrong. The jurors rejected the man’s insanity defense, and found him guilty of first-degree murder, second-degree murder, kidnapping, burglary, and tampering with evidence.

There is a misconception in our society that a defendant facing criminal charges can simply claim insanity, the court buys it, and many cases are ruled this way. Insanity rulings are actually pretty rare, and truly reserved for those suffering from severe mental disorders. People who commit crimes without being in full control of their mental faculties don’t fully understand the consequences of their actions, and require help to protect them from a prison sentence. A seasoned mental health defense attorney, like Bernardo Garcia, can successfully defend and assist individuals suffering from mental disorders. Prison is not the place for these individuals; they need treatment. If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges and suffer from mental illness, contact the Garcia Law Firm, PLC for a free consultation.

Read the original article here.

Posted in Mental Health Defenses, Violent Crime |

2 Arizona Men Arrested in Sting Operation for Attempting to Buy Female Slaves

7October
2015

In a sting operation set up by the FBI, four men were sentenced to long prison terms and hefty fines after being exposed as prepared and eager to subject woman to a lifetime of torture, abuse, and hard work.

The sting began when the FBI gained access to an internet site that offered users the chance to buy female slaves in Malaysia. The site was a scam, and users of the site were defrauded, but the FBI learned that there were a lot of people in the US and around the world that were interested in purchasing slaves.

Agents from the FBI began targeting certain users of the site who seemed committed to the idea of purchasing a slave, emailing them as the “slaver.” Special Agent Kurt Remus, of the FBI’s Phoenix field office, said, “We’d tell them, ‘This is not fantasy, these are humans. If you have any problems with that, get out now.’” He says that scared off many of the would-be slave buyers. But four men continued communication with the “slaver,” eventually traveling with money in hand to what they believed was a slave auction at a residence in Paradise Valley. They brought pictures of their slave dungeons, assuring the “slaver” that there was no way the women would be able to escape. All four had taken action to secure their homes: one way locks, restraining devices, chains, covered windows, soundproof boxes, and cages. The proof the men provided of the extensive preparations they took to contain their would-be slaves was used as evidence by the prosecution.

One of the Arizona men arrested was from Mesa, the other from Tucson. The other two men arrested were from California and Montana. They received prison sentences that ranged from five to nine years, followed with supervised probation.

Read the original article here.

Posted in Arizona, Sex Crimes, Violent Crime |

Theater Shooting Trial Puts Mental Health in Spotlight

22June
2015

Almost 3 years ago, James Holmes, now 27, opened fire on a theater full of people during the midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” in Aurora, Colorado. 12 people were killed in the shooting, and 70 people were injured. Holmes does not deny the crime, but has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. If he is found guilty by the jury, he could face the death penalty. If the jury determines that he was insane at the time of the crime, then he would instead be sent to a state psychiatric hospital.

The defense showed jurors a video taken in jail a few months after the shooting of Holmes experiencing what they called “a psychotic break.” The video showed Holmes standing on his bunk bed, and dropping backward onto his back and head. The defense argued that Holmes’ actions demonstrate his mental illness. Holmes had to be hospitalized as a result of these actions, and was treated with anti-psychotic medications and anti-depressant medications. However, during cross-examination, one of the jail nurses who dealt with Holmes testified that Holmes acted like “any other inmate” and his behavior was “nothing out of the ordinary,” other than the bed falling episode.

The expert witness presented by the defense, however, did not agree with the nurse. Dr. Jonathan Woodcock, who performed a mental evaluation of Holmes following his arrest, claims that Holmes was experiencing severe psychotic mental illness, and that Holmes was experiencing a “considerable disruption in his ability to understand reality.” The prosecution has called 2 court-appointed psychiatrists to the stand, both of whom claimed that Holmes was sane when he committed the crime, but that he does suffer from mental illness.

This case is taking place in Colorado, but here in Arizona, a person cannot plead not guilty by reason of insanity. Here, we have guilty except insane. Mental health defense cases are very rare—only about 1% of cases will involve an insanity defense. It will be interesting to see how this case unfolds.

Read the original article here.

Posted in Mental Health Defenses, Violent Crime |

Violent Kids Stress Loving Families

8June
2015

Here in Arizona, there are not many places to turn if you have a violent child. Whether the violence is caused by mental illness, developmental disabilities, autism, brain injuries, or a combination of these factors, the task of helping these children is generally passed around from one person or organization to the next. With no place to turn, many Arizona families make the difficult decision to send their child across the country to a quality facility that they hope can help their child.

Arizona is significantly lacking in resources when it comes to treating violent children. There are no longer any full-fledged psychiatric institutions for children in the state. The Arizona State Hospital used to have a juvenile division, but not anymore. Many families turn to the court system, hoping that a judge will order that the child be placed in treatment and that the state will pay for it. Residential treatment in an institution is astronomically expensive, often costing between $150,000 and $200,000 per year, plus the costs of getting the child there. In 2013 alone, 127 kids were placed in out-of-state facilities, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services. And that doesn’t even include the kids who were court-ordered to leave the state and receive treatment.

It’s unfortunate that there aren’t more treatment options closer to home. Without help, violent children don’t just “outgrow” violent behaviors; instead, these individuals often find themselves caught up in the justice system with, again, nowhere to turn for help.

But there is hope. Bryan Davey, president of Highland Behavioral in Phoenix, is working to start a center dedicated to helping the kids who need it the most. He’s putting together a team of psychologists, psychiatrists, board-certified behavior analysts, and pediatricians to help children living with autism, developmental disabilities, or brain injuries. Davey hopes to have the center open later this year.

Read the original article here.

Posted in Mental Health Defenses, Violent Crime |