In the Matter of Eric F. (Anonymous), appellant. David M. Hoovler, etc., respondent. Index No. 12-00548
Hygiene Legal Service, Mineola, NY (Michael D. Neville, Lisa
Volpe, and Dennis B. Feld of counsel), for appellant.
M. Hoovler, District Attorney, Middletown, NY (Robert H.
Middlemiss of counsel), respondent pro se.
C. BALKIN, J.P., CHERYL E. CHAMBERS, JOSEPH J. MALTESE,
COLLEEN D. DUFFY, JJ.
DECISION & ORDER
by Eric F., by permission, from an order of the County Court,
Orange County (Freehill, J.), dated June 24, 2015, which,
after an initial hearing pursuant to CPL 330.20(6), found
that he suffered from a dangerous mental disorder and that
the safety and welfare of the community and the defendant
required that he be treated in a secure facility, and
directed that he be committed to a secure facility for a
period not to exceed six months pursuant to CPL 330.20(1)(f).
that the appeal from so much of the order as directed that
the appellant be committed to a secure facility for a period
not to exceed six months pursuant to CPL 330.20(1)(f) is
dismissed, without costs or disbursements, as the period of
commitment has expired in accordance with its terms; and it
is further, ORDERED that the order is reversed insofar as
reviewed, on the facts, without costs or disbursements, so
much of the order as directed that the appellant be committed
to a secure facility for a period not to exceed six months
pursuant to CPL 330.20(1)(f) is vacated, and the matter is
remitted to the County Court, Orange County, for the entry of
a finding that the appellant is "mentally ill"
pursuant to CPL 330.20(1)(d), and the issuance of such
further orders as may be appropriate under the Mental Hygiene
Law and CPL 330.20(7).
the period of commitment has expired by its own terms, the
appeal from so much of the order as found that the appellant
has a dangerous mental disorder is not academic because the
County Court's finding has lasting consequences that will
affect all future proceedings regarding his commitment and
release (see Matter of George L., 85 N.Y.2d 295, 302
n 2; Matter of Sheldon S., 9 A.D.3d 92, 95;
People v Salem, 122 A.D.2d 85, 86).
September 19, 2012, the appellant was arrested for attacking
his then fiancée. At the time of the attack, the
appellant was under the delusion that his fiancée was
the devil. On September 25, 2012, he was released on bail,
and in October 2012, he was indicted on charges of
strangulation in the second degree, coercion in the first
degree, attempted assault in the second degree (two counts),
criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation (two
counts), assault in the third degree, and criminal possession
of a weapon in the fourth degree.
his release on bail, the appellant visited a number of
hospitals presenting with symptoms of anxiety, paranoia,
confusion, mania, delusions, and hallucinations. From
December 10, 2012, through sometime in June 2014, the
appellant received regular psychiatric treatment and
medication on an outpatient basis from Coney Island Hospital.
19, 2014, the County Court accepted the appellant's plea
of not responsible by reason of mental disease or defect to
the charge of strangulation in the second degree. After the
court issued an examination order pursuant to CPL 330.20(3),
the appellant was remanded to Mid-Hudson Forensic Psychiatric
Center (hereinafter Mid-Hudson), where he was evaluated by
three psychiatric examiners. Two of the examiners found him
to be suffering from a dangerous mental disorder, while the
third determined that he was mentally ill.
ensuing commitment hearing, the People presented the
testimony of Dr. Krista Sickler and Dr. Patricia
Simon-Phelan. The appellant presented the testimony of Dr.
Jacqueline Berenson and Dr. Lawrence Siegel. Drs. Sickler and
Simon-Phelan opined that the appellant currently presented a
danger to himself and others because he lacked a full
understanding of the chronic nature of his mental illness. By
contrast, Dr. Berenson and Dr. Siegel opined, based upon the
appellant's history of compliance while at liberty and at
Mid-Hudson, that the appellant was mentally ill but did not
suffer from a dangerous mental disorder.
County Court found that the appellant suffered from a
dangerous mental disorder, and directed that he be committed
to a secure facility for a period not to exceed six months.
The court based its finding of a heightened level of
dangerousness upon the seriousness of the instant offense, as
well as testimony from Drs. Sickler and Simon-Phelan that the
appellant lacked an acceptance of the chronic nature of his
illness. This Court granted the appellant leave to appeal
from the County Court's order.
hearing pursuant to CPL 330.20(6), the People must prove by a
preponderance of the evidence that the defendant either
suffers from a dangerous mental disorder or is mentally ill
(see CPL 330.20; People v Escobar, 61
N.Y.2d 431, 439-440). A " [d]angerous mental
disorder' means: (i) that a defendant currently suffers
from a mental illness' as that term is defined in
subdivision twenty of section 1.03 of the mental hygiene law,
and (ii) that because of such condition he currently
constitutes a physical danger to himself or others" (CPL
330.20[c]). A "mental illness" is defined as
"an affliction with a mental disease or mental condition
which is manifested by a disorder or disturbance in behavior,
feeling, thinking, or judgment to such an extent that the
person afflicted requires care, treatment and
rehabilitation" (Mental Hygiene Law § 1.03).
" Mentally ill' means that a defendant currently
suffers from a mental illness for which care and treatment as
a patient, in the in-patient services of a psychiatric
center... is essential to such defendant's welfare and
that his judgment is so impaired that he is unable to
understand the need for such care and treatment" (CPL
330.20[d]). "The difference in dangerousness is a
matter of degree; confinement in a secure facility requires
that the insanity acquittee's dangerousness be more
pronounced" (Matter of Marvin P., 120 A.D.3d
reviewing a determination made after a commitment hearing,
our "factual review power permits us to render the
determination warranted by the facts, making our own findings
of fact when necessary, while bearing in mind that in a close
case, the [County Court] had the advantage of seeing and
hearing the witnesses" (id. at 169-170). If
this Court determines that the record does not support the
County Court's findings, then we must modify the
commitment order (see Matter of Norman D., 3 N.Y.3d
our independent review of the record, we find that the People
failed to establish by a preponderance of the evidence that
the appellant suffered from a dangerous mental disorder ...