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R.I. judge remands violent offender with mental illness to hospital, not ACI

11-13-2014 Rhode Island:

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A Superior Court judge on Wednesday refused to sentence a man to prison for a 2012 assault on staff and patients at the Eleanor Slater Hospital for the mentally ill, saying that he will get credit for having served more than two years at the Adult Correctional Institutions.

Judge Netti C. Vogel, spurning a recommendation from a state prosecutor, said Anthony Tavares will be remanded to the state Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals, where he will remain until health-care officials determine that he is no longer a threat to society.

Tavares, 35, who has chronic paranoid schizophrenia, will have his case reviewed every six months.

David A. Levy, his defense lawyer, credited Vogel for making the proper decision. “It’s the right result, certainly,” he said.

In November 2001, two state caseworkers stopped by Tavares’ apartment in Cranston to deliver anti-psychotic medication. He had stopped taking his medicine and plunged a knife into the forehead of Glenn Hayes, killing the social worker. The other caseworker escaped unharmed.

Tavares was tried and found not guilty by reason of insanity and sent to the state Institute for Mental Health.

On June 7, 2012, Tavares had another psychotic episode at the Eleanor Slater Hospital, in Cranston, and assaulted a host of staff workers and patients. Vogel was the judge at the non-jury trial last month; she found him guilty on six counts of felony assault and one count of simple assault.

At Wednesday’s sentencing, Stephen A. Regine, an assistant attorney general, sought a sentence of 36 years in prison with 11½ years to serve at the ACI. Vogel sided with Levy, Tavares’ lawyer, who said there was no way that his client could “keep the peace and be of good behavior” for decades of suspended sentences.

“I’m concerned about the management of his care at the ACI,” Vogel said.

On the day of the attacks at Eleanor Slater Hospital, an extraction team from the prison entered the building and took Tavares to the ACI. Levy said that from June 7, 2012, through Oct. 20, 2014, Tavares spent 23 hours daily in his cell.

Last month, he was sent back to Eleanor Slater, where he will remain for the foreseeable future.

Vogel sentenced him to 28 months in prison but gave him credit for the time he served at the ACI. The six other convictions will run concurrently with the sentence.

The hearing stretched nearly three hours in Vogel’s fifth-floor courtroom.

The balding Tavares shuffled into the courtroom in a black sweatsuit and sneakers. His legs were bound in chains, and he wore handcuffs.

Regine, the prosecutor, was the first to address the court. He said that on June 7, 2012, Tavares committed a number of violent offenses “that opens him to criminal prosecution.”

A little more than two months before the rampage, Regine pointed out that Tavares attempted to get released from the Eleanor Slater Hospital. His request was denied by the court, a decision that upset Tavares.

“Anthony Tavares was driven by a frustration at his placement there,” said Regine. The prosecutor said Tavares also had assaulted several people in the hospital over the time he spent there, from 2004 to 2012.

“We do believe that jail is an appropriate sentence,” he said.

About 40 minutes into the sentencing hearing, Vogel questioned whether there was enough security in her courtroom.

“How many sheriffs are in this room?” she asked. She left the bench and spent about 10 minutes in her chambers. When she returned, the number of sheriffs had increased from three to eight.

Regine pointed out that there is a 2-foot-high stack of paperwork covering 3,224 pages about Tavares’ mental health history and the time he has spent at Eleanor Slater Hospital.

Levy, Tavares’ defense lawyer, provided the court with a sympathetic portrayal of his client. He said that he was first diagnosed with a “mental disease” when he was 4 years old. His problems were worse by the time he was a teenager, and he spent time in mental health and juvenile criminal facilities.

He referred to Regine’s recommendation for punishment of 36 years as a “vindictive sentence.”

Levy said that Tavares’ outburst and acts of violence at the hospital “shined a light” on how the hospital operated. He said his client is serving a “life sentence,” having to endure mental illness.

He urged Vogel to sentence Tavares to time served for spending 24 months in isolation at the ACI.

Tavares also addressed the court, in a soft voice that was difficult to hear. He did say toward the end of his brief presentation, “I just couldn’t control myself.”

Vogel’s sentencing was not a complete surprise. Last month, she criticized the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals for sending Tavares to the ACI. ..Source.. by W. Zachary Malinowski

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