David Attias, the former UCSB student who was convicted of murdering four people when he struck them with his car on February 23, 2001, will spend at least the next 180 days in Patton State Hospital.
At a brief placement hearing on July 12, Judge Thomas Adams ruled that Attias should go to the San Bernardino-based mental health facility. Patton is a major forensic mental hospital operated by the California Department of Mental Health. It currently houses between 1,100 and 1,200 people committed by the judicial system for treatment.
Jurors found Attias guilty of four counts of murder but ruled he was legally insane at the time he committed the acts. Since that verdict, Attias underwent an evaluation by psychiatrists and psychologists at the Ventura County Health and Behavior Unit. Doctors who observed Attias recommended that because Attias’ crimes were particularly severe and violent, he should be placed in a state hospital specializing in the care and treatment of mental disorders.
Judge Thomas Adams agreed with this recommendation and placed Attias in Patton State Hospital, pending the restoration of his sanity. If Attias does not recover fully, he will be released in 60 years; the time he would have served in prison has the jury found him legally sane at the time of the crime.
Following the placement hearing, Judge Adams took a few moments to address the people whom the case has affected.
“I have been involved with this case since the moment it occurred. By coincidence, I happened to be the on-call judge contacted [on the night of the accident],” he said. “The parents and loved ones, know you have been in my thoughts and prayers ever since that terrible, fateful early morning.”
Adams also said he felt the scope of the trial extended far beyond Sabado Tarde Road, where the incident occurred.
“It was a tragedy for all concerned and it has touched the hearts of people all across the nation,” he said.
Adams wished the entire courtroom, Attias in particular, luck in the future.
If Attias had been found guilty and sane, he could have spent a minimum 60 years in prison.
The courtroom had fewer attendees than it did during the original trial, which began on April 23, 2002. The first phase of the trial ended June 11, with Attias being found responsible for the deaths Nicholas Bourdakis, Christopher Divis, Ruth Levy, and Elie Israel but not guilty for driving under the influence of marijuana and causing great bodily injury to Albert Levy. The insanity verdict was read on June 14.
Noticeably absent were Attias’ parents, Daniel and Diana Attias, who defense attorney Jack Earley said were detained in traffic.
Earley said Attias’ new life in the institution will consist of daily therapy and work assignments. The earliest Attias could be released is after180 days of therapy, but because the nature of Attias’ illness causes it to form cycles that span long periods of time, Earley said he did not think Attias would be released for a long time.
Earley said his client met the idea of hospitalization with both intimidation and hope.
“It’s frightening for him to think where he’s going. His life as he thought and dreamt about it is completely over,” he said. “But he was also very much relieved. It gives him some hope, if he works very hard. He realizes now that he needs his medication.”
Currently, Attias is taking a combination of Zyprexa, a medication used in the treatment of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and Depakote, which also treats bipolar disorder. Earley said he thinks his client could one day be fully rehabilitated.
“I think he will [be a functioning person], even if his view of life is always going to be through the glasses of what has happened,” he said.