Father Who Drove Family Off Cliff Will Get Treatment Instead of Trial, Court Rules - The World News

Father Who Drove Family Off Cliff Will Get Treatment Instead of Trial, Court Rules

A man who the authorities say deliberately drove his family off a cliff in Northern California last year will receive mental health treatment instead of standing trial, according to court records.

The man, Dharmesh A. Patel, pleaded not guilty in September to three counts of attempted murder after his Tesla fell more than 250 feet off a cliff with him, his wife and their two children inside on Jan. 2, 2023. All four survived after emergency workers rescued them from the rubble.

On Thursday, Mr. Patel was found eligible for a mental health diversion, a provision that allows a person charged with a crime to instead undergo treatment, according to records filed in Superior Court in San Mateo County. Under the provision, prosecution is postponed while the defendant undergoes mental health treatment, and may be dismissed entirely.

According to a news release from San Mateo County, Judge Susan M. Jakubowski of Superior Court determined that Mr. Patel was eligible for the program based on a diagnosis of “major depressive disorder” which, she said, had contributed to his criminal conduct. He will remain in jail for several weeks before being released to his parents’ home in Belmont, Calif., where he will be monitored by GPS and required to report to court once a week, according to the release. He is not allowed to leave San Mateo County and must surrender his driver’s license and passport.

Stephen Wagstaffe, the county’s district attorney, said in an email that his office had “vigorously opposed” the diversion program and had asked the court to bring Mr. Patel to trial. “But under California’s diversion law, the court makes the decision,” he said, noting that he and other district attorneys had recently supported a bill to to change laws allowing for the provision in attempted-murder cases, but had been unsuccessful.

Mr. Patel’s lawyer did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Tuesday afternoon.

The ruling follows a monthslong process in which Mr. Patel’s lawyer, Joshua Bentley, argued that Mr. Patel should be diverted into the mental health program instead of facing criminal charges. “Not everyone who commits a crime is a criminal,” Mr. Bentley said in court in May, the television station KTLA reported.

Doctors had diagnosed Mr. Patel with schizoaffective disorder and major depressive disorder, and in the weeks leading up to the crash, he was experiencing paranoia and delusions, the station reported. Mr. Patel’s wife testified that she did not want her husband prosecuted, according to KTLA.

The next hearing in Mr. Patel’s case is scheduled for July 1.

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