Chapter 3 in a series on mental illness.
The system is brutal. The courts and the laws support the view that mentally ill people should be free to suffer from their illness and not receive treatment. The entire trial of my brother was a piece of theater with the judge, lawyers, witnesses, and jury all playing their part in a farcical charade. The system failed.
The following video interview with my brother shows him in the state he was one day after being released from jail.
[Note: Elsewhere see excerpts of Tony Allard’s writing about his own mental illness .]
Tony was released Sunday. I saw him Monday. Here is the story…
During my bothers trial, the fact of his mental illness was not mentioned. There was no testimony about his history of mental illness and no information provided to the jury about his condition. Instead, the public defender, Jose Colon, chose to treat the case by defending against the charge of robbery, arguing that there was no intent to deprive the victim of property. The judge had issued instructions that my brother could be found guilty on lesser charges and Jose Colon admitted to the jury that those lesser charges could apply to the act committed.
In the end, the jury agreed.
My brother was found not guilty on the charge of felony robbery but found guilty on two lesser charges of misdemeanor assault and battery. The verdicts were rendered on Friday, August 28, 2009 at about 11 AM.
After the jury was excused, the defense agreed to immediate sentencing.
My brother was sentenced to six months time served.
The recommendation I had prepared for the judge was a moot point now. I never had a chance to provide that letter to the judge. It would have asked her to consider his mental illness in deciding on a sentence and asked that, some how, some way, my brother be put into a treatment program to receive care for his illness. Nothing in my letter, none of his history of mental illness, was so much as mentioned during the trial.
So Tony was a free man. He is back on the street. However, it took two days for the prison system to release him. He wasn’t actually released until yesterday, Sunday, about 48 hours after being found not guilty and sentenced to time served.
About an hour ago he showed up at my home, bare foot, dirty, and I believe somewhat manic. He asked if he could take a bath. He’s doing that now as I write. I just wanted to get my thoughts down as I decide how to proceed in my relationship with my brother.
He has some money that I have kept for him and will give back to him. But I am not going to provide housing for him. I can’t do that anymore, at least not this time, not now, until, somehow, he proves himself able to remain stable and not go off his meds and become the obnoxious nuisance he can be when off his meds.
I am willing to take him to a shelter or drive him to a hotel or room somewhere.
He needs some kind of supervised environment but he’s not going to get it from the system and I can’t provide it. I’ve tried before and it doesn’t work.
Tony’s getting out of the bath. I am making some coffee and am going to talk with him now.
After his bath he also washed his clothes, the only ones he has, using my washing machine and dryer. The conversation I had with him is not your normal kind of conversation. My brother tends to free associate during conversations and does what I believe is jump from thought to thought and remain at a shallow level of understanding of whatever topic is being discussed. He has a good memory for names, dates, and events mixed with his delusional interpretation of what goes on his life.
I asked why it had taken two days after he was found not guilty for the jail to release him from custody. He told me that the jail was understaffed since many sheriffs were called away to help evacuate neighborhoods near the La Canada brush fire raging near by. But inmates who are in the psych ward have to be given an exit interview before being released. So it took two days for the release process to occur.
While we waited for his clothes to dry in my dryer, he went out into my yard to smoke a cigarette. I took that time to talk a bit with him then went to the bank to get about half of his money I had held for him. Part of me did not want to give him money that he may as likely gamble away. But part of me wants nothing more to do with him and to just tell him “here, take your money, go away, I can’t see you any more.”.
I asked him if I could interview him on video and he consented. I recorded two video interviews with him. I have placed the shorter of the two interviews with my brother on YouTube. You could entitle the video “Everyone is a Mason”, since my brother labels many of the people he comes in contact with as Masons, some sect he believes controls the world and, in particular, has been involved in monitoring his thoughts. Or maybe its not the Masons, per se, that monitor his thoughts according to him. But he told me that some dental work he had done over twenty years ago resulted in implants in his mouth that are used to monitor his thoughts and transmit them. For example, he believes that one time when in jail, his thoughts were monitored and retransmitted over the public address system. He told me that today, his first full day in freedom after being found not guilty of robbery and guilty of assault for an act he did in snatching a woman’s purse when, in fact, the act was that of a mentally ill person who had been off his antipsychotic medicine and was delusional. He told me that the Armenian women whose purse he grabbed is a mason. I asked him how he could tell that was the case at the time he saw her at the bus stop before he grabbed her purse. He responded that it became evident from her testimony in court. I attended the entire trial and there was at no time anything in her testimony other than a simple description of a man accosting her and physically wresting her purse away from her and making her afraid. Tony told me that her testimony in court confirmed what he has intuited at the bus stop. I have this all on video and plan to replay it for Tony at some point in the future if and when he is more stable to see if it will in any way enable him to reflect on his own delusional behavior.
He talked of his girl friend of twenty five years ago, who lives in Paris, and how he spoke with her by phone and plans to visit her. He talked of his more recent girl friend who he was with for seven years during the 1990s and how she had “saved his life.” Tony, so lonely now, so unable to see his condition and want the help he needs to be able to survive.
In brief, my brother, who showed up this morning bare foot and dirty, has just spent six months in L.A. County Twin Towers Correctional Facility and been convicted of assault and battery for an act that was done while off his meds and delusional. Two full weeks of court time were spent involving a judge, public defender, deputy district attorney, court clerk, court secretary, forty pre-trial jurors of which fourteen were selected as jurors and two alternates, and various other court house staff, and the police, two of whom took a half day for testimony. None of this effort and expense has helped my brother or helped society in any way. It may conform to Scientology and arch conservative and other selfish stupid people’s views of how society should deal with mental illness, but it represents a total failure of reason and of our system.
Tony’s pattern is likely to continue. After interviewing him, I asked him to leave and not come back for some time, because I cannot help him and do not want me or people I know to become the next victims of his delusions. I even refused to answer questions he had about some of my friends when he tried to remember their names or where-abouts or activities. I think he is just trying to include them into his delusional framework so I protect them and myself by not giving him that information.
I provided him with his now cleaned clothing and also some shoes I had purchased for him during his court appearance (although the court sheriffs did not let him wear the shoes in court — he had to just use his jail sandals). At least now he has shoes and clean socks.
I completed the video interview. It went on for about 45 minutes. By the end I was convinced Tony is either not taking his medicine or it is not the right medicine. At times he states he is taking 20mg of Aripiprazole (generic for the product marketed as Abilify). Abilify is not abilitating my bother, no matter how clever the name or how much money the pharmaceutical company is making selling it under that name. Or maybe, as my bother claims in the interview, he was just “cheeking” his meds and not really taking them during his stay in the TTCF psychiatric ward.
We had talked about going to have lunch. But after the interview I was no longer in the mood to be with my brother. It was late in the afternoon by then and I have a day of work ahead of me yet to do. Intuitively Tony knew it was time to go.
Then Tony reached out to hug me before leaving. I was startled at first, not sure what motion he was making. Then I hugged him. I think he gets very few hugs in his life these days.
It is a sad fact that he is likely to remain or become more delusional, go off his meds if he is not already off them, and get into trouble with the law again. I know he does not want to go back to jail. But his mind is not well and, unless somehow he takes and continues to take antipsychotic medicine, he will surely slip up and act in some way that leads back to that horrible environment in spite of it all.
If the pattern repeats, as it surely will, Tony will commit some act of vandelism or harass someone and end up back in the jail system. In the mean time he is likely to gamble away his money and end up homeless.
I feel defeated. Like everything is back to square zero. No progress has been made. I am sad for my brother, who is lost in his self-created world, utterly unable to perceive reality and think rationally.
The court system and, at a larger level, the entire legal and medical apparatus of our society, seems utterly unable to provide the correct measures to help both my brother and society cope with the mental illness that afflicts him and, in very real sense, all of us. The situation is absurd.
Tony showed up at my place this morning. I had come back from breakfast to meet my Spanish tutor, who had just arrived. Tony was also sitting out on my deck. He was basically off his rocker. Any attempt at rational conversation with him was futile as his responses were a litany of vituperative vitriol against everyone he knows and doesn’t know. I told him that I could not help him and asked him to leave. There was nothing I could do for him. Or was there?
I have a restraining order for him on file from earlier in the year when he made verbal threats against our elderly mother’s care givers (she lives in an assisted living home in another town). I told Tony about the restraining order and that I could use that to have him arrested. I did not wish to do that but it could be a measure of last resort. He replied that I should call the police. I think he wanted me to call the police. It was his way of asking for help.
I called the Santa Monica police homeless unit. Tony went out to the front of the house and at first I thought he was leaving. Instead, he was pacing up and down on the sidewalk, talking to himself. I went out to talk with him and gave him some water, which he accepted. I asked him where he slept the previous night and he said he hadn’t slept. I asked him where his shoes were and he said they didn’t fit so he threw them away. He used very ugly language as he raved about some neighbors who are gay and used clang speech such as saying “Djew know that” to mean “Did you know that” combined with the word “Jew” expressing his antisemitic complex. That is just one example of a long string of incoherent speech he uttered, combined with some coherent replies such as when I said I would get him some more water, he replied “OK”.
It was as if he wanted to be taken to a hospital. He said more than one time, “I don’t want to do this any more” or something to that effect.
Three policemen arrived about twenty minutes later. They handcuffed him but were gentle in their questioning, asking him if he wanted to hurt himself. “No” he replied. And if he wanted to hurt anyone else. He replied, “No, not anymore than I hurt.”
I briefed the officers on his recent and past history. Each time officers are involved with Tony, it is a new cast of characters and they are starting from square zero. However, they suggested they take him to Harbor UCLA, which was good, since that is where he received care in January. The staff there is familiar with Tony and they had started a process of obtaining a conservatorship for Tony before the Mental Health Court threw him back out on the street. Maybe this time the court will be wiser. This is assuming they have the resources to hold him and agree to proceed with that process again. I have already left a message with the staff expressing my hope they will do so and that I will provide whatever information is needed to assist with that process.
I got a call early this morning from Paul, an old friend of Tony..
He found Tony sleeping in the back of his pick up truck this morning.
That’s right. Tony must not have been admitted by UCLA Harbor hospital yesterday, where he had been taken by the Santa Monica police.
Tony “presents” well. The ER must have determined he was not sufficiently crazy to be admitted to their psych ward.
Paul is concerned about his 90 year old parents and about his apartment building, thinking Tony will show up at one of those places. From talking with Paul it is clear to me that he likes Tony but has grown weary of Tony. Paul mentioned that when he saw Tony there earlier in the year he had considered getting his gun out of its box. And, he keeps a baseball bat next to his door. So, yes, he likes the sane Tony, but he is very very tired of Tony’s crazy behavior.
I advised Paul to call the Van Nuys police and ask them to call me so I can give them more background.
I called Harbor UCLA hospital and was transferred to someone who I think works in the ER. She was not permitted to give me any information about anyone. The gal I was talking to said it was a “patients rights” issue. I mentioned that really it was giving rights to the mental illness and not to the patient. She did not understand. You would think someone who works with the mentally ill would understand that point.
Anyway, I told her not to take this personally. And I asked if there was some way I could pre-brief the ER about my brother. He’ll be back. They’ll see him again. He’s been there several times in his life. Matt Wells, social worker in the psych ward, *wants* Tony to be admitted.
She told me I’d have to talk with someone there when Tony was already there.
Later I will try to call the ER again and speak with the attending physician. Good luck Dennis.
I then called Matt Wells, the social worker in the psych ward of Harbor UCLA. He is a very good guy. Matt told me that the ER is a different unit than the psych ward and that the ER will often not admit someone. The goal of the ER is to not admit people. They are swamped so to some extent that is understandable.
But Matt wants to see Tony back there so we can continue to pursue the conservatorship and get him treatment he needs. I know Matt by now and in January had talked at length with him during Tony’s stay there. Matt will help. We just need to get Tony into Harbor UCLA.
I asked Matt if he could have a word with the ER intake. He said it is not easy. It’s really a different world, but that he will talk to some techs he knows. They can informally put the word out.
Next time Tony goes to Harbor I am going to drive down there myself and provide information to the intake doctors.
I got an early start today at 7AM, trying to have a normal day of work.
At about 10 AM I hear Tony shouting my name. “Dennis, I want the rest of my money back, you fag thief”, or some such. I am not gay so am not sure why Tony is calling me a fag. I think he is calling people fags now instead of masons, or maybe both. Anyway, he was screaming loudly although staying toward the front of my deck and not approaching me.
I call 911. I am trying to talk to Tony and the 911 operator at the same time so the operator asks me to go back inside so he can hear me. I ask if someone is rolling and the answer is yes someone is already there. I look out and see that a SMPD motorcycle cop has arrived and taken Tony out to the front street. Within a few minutes an armada of Santa Monica police vehicles is out in front of my place. A large SUV and two patrol cars. I walk out to the street and talk with officier Rinski who had taken Tony to Harbor two days earlier. Tim Jackman, chief of police is on the scene. I know him from my volunteer work with a neighborhood association. Officer Rynski informs me that someone fitting Tony’s description had approached a doctor at St. John’s hospital earlier that morning and at arms length picked the doctor up by his shirt and lifted him off the ground. The doctor, who is about my size (six feet, 175 pounds) was not hurt but had felt helpless. Assuming it was my brother accosting the doctor, this is the first time I have known my brother to be physically violent. He’s getting worse. This is not good. It never was good.
I make a case to officer Rynski to take Tony to Harbor, but now, later, on second thought, why bother? First of all, Tony was arrested this morning for violating a restraining order I have on him. That is different than just being hauled in for a psychiatric evaluation. And Harbor UCLA proved itself inadequate to access the situation and does not even talk to its own psych ward about admission, so the decision by Rynski to take Tony into custody in Santa Monica makes sense.
Tony bumped things a notch up if he was violent this morning. I will continue to contact the SMPD liaison officers and do what I can to see that Tony does not cycle through another useless criminal trial in lieu of getting placed into some kind of treatment program.
I called the SMPD this morning, who informed me that Tony is being held in the Santa Monica jail awaiting a hearing next Tuesday (but a police web site indicates Wednesday).
I think the hearing will be for violating my restraining order.
The court date and address on the web site is shown as:
Next Court Date: 09/09/2009
Next Court Time: 0830
Court Name: LAX LA MUNI COURT DIV 145
Court Address: 11701 S. LA CIENEGA BLVD.
Court City: LOS ANGELESUPT
So, now what?
Does the system just recycle my brother once again through the jail?
Is it my responsibility to advocate for my brother?
If not me, who? He won’t advocate for himself.
The system does everything in its power to prevent treating him and even makes it difficult for me, the surrogate advocate, to obtain information or to provide information.
[ story continued: http://oceanpark.com/blog/2009/09/defeated-by-the-revolving-door/ ]
[Note: Elsewhere see excerpt’s of Tony Allard’s writing about his own mental illness .]