Man has served three times his maximum sentence due to mental illness

Farokh Jalil-Al-Ghadr (in orange) last appeared in court on Aug. 1, 2015, with public defender Andrew Yi, left.
Farokh Jalil-Al-Ghadr (in orange) last appeared in court on Aug. 1, 2015, with public defender Andrew Yi, left.

For 272 days, a 34-year-old Thurston County man has been held prisoner by the state’s mental health system.

He’s served more than triple the 90-day maximum sentence for his alleged crime, felony harassment.

But because of his mental health condition, Farokh Jalil-Al-Ghadr has been found incompetent to stand trial or plead guilty. So he remains in the Thurston County Jail.

Over those 272 days, Jalil-Al-Ghadr twice was sent to Western State Hospital, a Lakewood facility operated by the state Department of Social and Health Services — once for a 15-day mental health evaluation and once for 45 days of competency restoration treatment.

After returning from his most recent Western State visit, Jalil-Al-Ghadr’s again was found incompetent to stand trial.

The defense and the prosecution can’t agree on how to resolve the case.

There’s really nothing to be gained at this point by continuing the prosecution. He’s already served more time than he could possibly get.

Daryl Rodrigues, Thurston County public defense director

Jalil-Al-Ghadr’s public defender, Andrew Yi, and Thurston County Public Defense Director Daryl Rodrigues believe the Prosecutor’s Office should to drop the charges and try for a civil commitment.

“There’s really nothing to be gained at this point by continuing the prosecution,” Rodrigues said. “He’s already served more time than he could possibly get. So really, the only possible thing that the state could get out of this is to wrap up another conviction.”

Dropping the charges isn’t an option, said County Prosecutor Jon Tunheim and the deputy prosecutor handling the case, Olivia Zhou.

“If we just let him go and trust the mental health system, we’re essentially just letting him go back into the community without any kind of supervision,” Tunheim said.

“The victims out there are genuinely afraid of what happens once he gets out of custody.”

The victims out there are genuinely afraid of what happens once he gets out of custody.

Jon Tunheim, Thurston County prosecutor

The two sides agree on one thing: Jalil-Al-Ghadr’s is an extreme case, but situations like his are becoming increasingly common.

Tunheim described them as “common but not yet frequent.”

Rodrigues described the problem as pervasive and recalled the case of an elderly man with dementia who was arrested for failing to comply with a no-contact order.

Worried the man would die in custody, jail staff notified Rodrigues’ office.

Public defenders and deputy prosecutors worked to have charges against the man dropped and to get him transferred to a treatment center where health care providers could work out a release plan, Rodrigues said.

“So is the problem pervasive?” Rodrigues asked. “It’s pervasive enough that old people with dementia are getting lost.”

The mental health problem is getting the attention of county officials. Next month, the county will open a long-awaited mental health triage facility, adjacent to the jail in Tumwater. The facility has limited space — 10 beds — and won’t be an overall fix. But county officials hope it will help some people and take pressure off the jail.

“The new triage facility could have been a good option for someone like (Jalil-Al-Ghadr),” Tunheim said. “It could have helped him locally, he could be evaluated and could have come up with a plan for him.”

‘Honest to God, I am going to kill him’

Jalil-Al-Ghadr was arrested Nov. 17, 2015, after a Roundtable Pizza employee reported a man wearing a blue overcoat and with a blue plastic bag on his head was standing outside of the Lacey restaurant, according to court documents.

The man, later identified as Jalil-Al-Ghadr, allegedly was calling the employee names and telling him he was “lucky to be alive.” He also allegedly threatened to rape the employee’s wife.

Jalil-Al-Ghadr then walked away. A Lacey police officer later found and arrested him.

In May, 20 percent of defendants ordered to receive in-hospital evaluations and 32 percent of defendants ordered to receive restoration treatment were admitted within seven days, according to a court order.

The employee said Jalil-Al-Ghadr frequents the Hawks Prairie area and that he had seen Jalil-Al-Ghadr the previous day. He had been outside of the Sport Clips hair salon — which is next door to Roundtable Pizza — making the women who worked there feel uncomfortable, according to court documents.

The Roundtable employee said he asked Jalil-Al-Ghadr to move along. The two men “had a few words,” but Jalil-Al-Ghadr eventually left.

When the officer talked to Jalil-Al-Ghadr, he said the Roundtable Pizza employee hadn’t been polite to him and that he had returned to assault the man.

According to court records, he told the police officer, “I was going to kill him. I was going to snap his neck with my bare hands. I never lie. Honest to God, I was going to kill him. That is what I came over to do today, but did not.

“I will return again and again until I kill him. I never lie. Honest to God, I am going to kill him.”

The police officer stated Jalil-Al-Ghadr said all this in a matter-of-fact voice.

On Nov. 18, Jalil-Al-Ghadr appeared before Superior Court Judge James Dixon, who found probable cause for a charge of felony harassment, threats to kill. Court documents show Jalil-Al-Ghadr had no known criminal history.

Bail was set at $5,000.

According to Washington state sentencing guidelines, the maximum sentence for a felony harassment conviction, if the defendant has no prior criminal history, is 90 days in jail.

Questions of competency

Yi said he began to question his client’s competency almost immediately upon meeting him

“When somebody is arrested, right after they’re appointed counsel, the first thing that we do is speak to them,” Rodrigues said. “And if there’s some sense at that point that there may be an issue of competency, we’re ethically prohibited from proceeding with the case, and we have to bring it to the attention of the court.”

Yi did so, and on Dec. 11, 2015, Dixon ordered that Jalil-Al-Ghadr undergo a mental health evaluation, conducted by DSHS at the Thurston County jail.

According to a DSHS report dated Dec. 21, 2015, Jalil-Al-Ghadr refused to leave his unit to undergo the evaluation. The judge ordered Jalil-Al-Ghadr sent to Western State for a 15-day evaluation.

Court documents show he was taken to the hospital Jan. 8, 2016, and remained there until Jan. 22. During the stay, he was found competent to stand trial and assist in his own defense.

Again concerned about Jalil-Al-Ghadr’s competency, Yi on Feb. 1 asked the judge for a second opinion regarding competency, and the request was granted.

After conducting an evaluation, clinical psychologist Indra Finch determined Jalil-Al-Ghadr’s symptoms were consistent with schizophrenia. Based on a report Finch submitted, Dixon found Jalil-Al-Ghadr wasn’t competent to stand trial.

He ordered Jalil-Al-Ghadr sent to Western State for 45 days of competency restoration treatment — and that he be sent to the hospital within seven days.

The seven-day timeline is based on a July 2015 ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Marsha Pechman known as the Trueblood decision.

It demands that the state take not more than seven days to evaluate a defendant’s competency to stand trial. Those deemed incompetent must be admitted for treatment in no more than an additional seven days.

In July, Pechman held DSHS in contempt.

In May of this year, 20 percent of defendants ordered to receive in-hospital evaluations and 32 percent of defendants ordered to receive restoration treatment were admitted within seven days, according to the contempt order.

The order also stated that wait times of more than 40 days are common.

DSHS was ordered to pay fines of $500 per day for defendants who had waited between seven and 14 days, and daily fines of $1,000 for defendants who had waited more than 14 days.

On Aug. 4, the court ordered that DSHS pay $185,500 in fines.

In Jalil-Al-Ghadr’s case, 20 days after Dixon ordered him sent to Western State he hadn’t been transported. On April 20, the judge ordered DSHS to come to court to explain why it hadn’t complied with his order.

Assistant Attorney General Randy Head responded three days later. He said there hadn’t been room for Jalil-Al-Ghadr at the hospital but that he would be admitted the week of May 19.

Jalil-Al-Ghadr was admitted to the hospital and received restoration treatment. In a report dated June 17, DSHS found he no longer showed signs of a psychiatric disorder and was competent to stand trial.

I don’t believe he quite understands what’s going on.

Andrew Yi, public defender

Shortly after Jalil-Al-Ghadr returned to jail, Yi again questioned his client’s competency. Within a few days, Jalil-Al-Ghadr was removed from the jail’s general population and placed in a maximum security unit.

On June 27, Dixon again ordered a competency evaluation at Yi’s request. And on July 19, Jalil-Al-Ghadr was once again found incompetent. He will next appear in court Monday to address competency restoration.

Yi said his client’s time in jail is not helping him get better.

“The nature of his own schizophrenia prevents him from a rational thought process,” the attorney said. “And I don’t believe he quite understands what’s going on.”

An alternative to jail

Jalil-Al-Ghadr’s case is a perfect example of the criminal justice system becoming the only alternative to dealing with the mentally ill, Tunheim said. It’s not uncommon, he explained, for defendants to enter a cycle of incompetency, competency restoration and deterioration upon re-entry to the jail.

“We’ve got a person that’s potentially in the wrong system,” Tunheim said. “Right now, I don't think the two systems work together well enough.”

We’ve got person that’s potentially in the wrong system. Right now, I don't think the two systems work together well enough.

Jon Tunheim, Thurston County prosecutor

At the moment, Thurston County lacks a strong mental health system to handle Jalil-Al-Ghadr or other similar patients, Tunheim said. The nearest state-run psychiatric hospital is Western State, he said, but it’s overcrowded and has few ties to the Thurston County community.

There is hope, in the form of a local, county-run mental health triage center, scheduled to open in early September.

Mark Freedman, the county’s social services director, said the 10-bed facility is designed to be a diversion from the Thurston County jail.

The target population is people who commit crimes because of mental illness — either for survival or because they’re confused. It’s not intended to serve people who commit crimes knowingly, for the sake of committing crimes.

Triage center patients will have to meet the standard for civil commitment, meaning they will have to be a danger to themselves or others, Freedman said. They will be treated by a licensed health care provider.

Along with the triage facility, county officials hope to establish a mobile outreach program to help people who haven’t committed a crime.

“There is a whole population on the street that the police engage with that hasn’t even committed a crime but is still drawing police attention,” Freedman said. “We would be able to help those people, too.”

Would the triage facility help someone like Jalil-Al-Ghadr? Tunheim said it’s hard to tell.

“Perhaps,” he said. “I say perhaps because it’s hard to predict the outcome.”

Is there a way out?

If jail isn’t the best place for Jalil-Al-Ghadr, how does he get out?

Yi still hopes that the state will dismiss the charges, but Tunheim insists that won’t happen.

“I get that he hit the maximum (sentence),” the prosecutor said. “But if that’s the case, if he’s going to get out, he needs to plead guilty. But that hasn’t even been a conversation at this point. All we’re hearing is that they want us to drop the charges.”

Yi said that if Jalil-Al-Ghadr were to plead guilty, he would be released that same day, because he’s served more than the maximum sentence.

This is all about figuring out a solution that will protect public safety.

Jon Tunheim, Thurston County prosecutor

But that solution is impossible while Jalil-Al-Ghadr still is considered incompetent. According to state law, he would need to be found competent before he could enter a guilty plea.

There’s a third option — but it would require Jalil-Al-Ghadr staying in custody for at least another 90 days for a second round of restoration treatment.

If after that Jalil-Al-Ghadr were found incompetent, then the charges against him could be dismissed, Yi said.

But if prosecutors can prove he is likely to commit more crimes or if there is a likelihood that his competency could be restored, the charges wouldn’t be dropped, and Jalil-Al-Ghadr would be given another six months of inpatient restoration treatment, Tunheim said.

Yi said pursuing that second round of restoration treatment, in the hope that charges would be dismissed at the end, is not his preferred option.

“That’s not how I’m approaching this case,” he said. “If this were a case with a longer sentence, something like five years, I might do it because that extra time wouldn’t make a difference. But in this case, he’s already served his time.”

And pursuing that solution might not even be an option, Tunheim said, given that Jalil-Al-Ghadr was found competent after his first round of restoration treatment.

The ultimate goal for the prosecutor’s office, he said, is to have some kind of supervision or probation put in place.

“At least then we could call the victim and say someone is keeping an eye on him,” he said. “This is all about figuring out a solution that will protect public safety.”

Amelia Dickson: 360-754-5445, @Amelia_Oly