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Begin v. State

Supreme Court of Maine

December 22, 2016


          Argued: November 9, 2016

          Rory A. McNamara, Esq. (orally), Drake Law, LLC, Lebanon, for appellant Jason Begin

          Maeghan Maloney, District Attorney, and David M. Spencer, Asst. Dist. Atty. (orally), Kennebec County District Attorney, Augusta, for appellee State of Maine

          Panel: SAUFLEY, C.J., and MEAD, GORMAN, HUMPHREY, and CLIFFORD, JJ.

          GORMAN, J.

         [¶1] Jason Begin appeals from a judgment of the Superior Court (Kennebec County, Marden, J.) denying his petition for release from the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services, to which he was committed in 2004 based on a finding that he was not criminally responsible for certain crimes by reason of insanity. Begin argues that the court erred by continuing the final hearing on his petition, excluding evidence at that hearing, and issuing a decision in the absence of any testimony from an independent psychiatrist. He also challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the courts determination that he is not entitled to release pursuant to 15 M.R.S. § 104-A (2015). We affirm the judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] In 2003, Begin was charged with theft and violation of a condition of release, for which the Superior Court (Androscoggin County, Delahanty, J.) found him not criminally responsible by reason of insanity (NCR) in 2004. See 15 M.R.S.A. § 103 (Supp. 2002); 17-A M.R.S.A. § 39 (Supp. 2003).[1] Begin was placed in the custody of the Commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services and committed to the Riverview Psychiatric Center.[2] See 15 M.R.S.A. § 103.

         [¶3] Between 2005 and 2015, Begin filed in the Superior Court (Kennebec County) a series of petitions for modified release treatment orders seeking further institutional privileges. See 15 M.R.S. § 104-A(2). In the resulting orders, Begin was granted some additional privileges, and periodically also had his privileges suspended or revoked. Eventually, by order dated October 3, 2013, the court (Murphy, J.) allowed Begin to enter a group residential program with continuing outpatient services from Riverview.

         [¶4] On July 29, 2015, Begin filed the petition now at issue, requesting "a hearing on [his] fitness for release and return to permanent residency in the community pursuant to Title 15 §104-A (1) and (2)." The court (Marden, J.) conducted a hearing at which it admitted numerous exhibits and the testimony of a Riverview staff psychiatrist, a psychiatric nurse practitioner, Dr. Debra Baeder of the State Forensic Service, four mental health workers, a detective sergeant with the Augusta Police Department, two of Begins employers, an elder in Begins church, and Begins mother.

         [¶5] The court made the following factual findings, which are supported by competent record evidence. Begin, who was raised by a grandmother with schizophrenia, began exhibiting antisocial and psychotic symptoms at an early age. Since childhood, he has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), major depressive disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, mixed developmental disorder, bipolar affective disorder, evasive developmental disorder, Aspergers Syndrome, borderline mental retardation, major depressive disorder, pedophilia, cannabis abuse, and personality disorder not otherwise specified.

         [¶6] Although Begin denies having any violent tendencies, he has a history of perpetrating physical and verbal violence when his wishes are not met. In one such incident on January 12, 2015, Begins outpatient services team confronted him about suspected marijuana use or distribution. After Begin realized that the team intended to send him to Riverview while they investigated the reports, Begin brandished a knife and slashed his own arm. When Begin then "appeared to be attempting to assault" a police officer who was there to escort Begin to Riverview, the police officer shot Begin; Begin was hospitalized for some time for the injuries he incurred.

         [¶7] The court found that Begin "has no primary psychotic disorder, " but, as a symptom of his PTSD, he experiences "tangent psychotic or quasi psychotic symptoms" when confronted with severe stress. In the midst of such reactions, Begin experiences "a high degree of cognitive distortion" and can no longer realistically or rationally perceive the circumstances. Based on the recommendations of Riverview staff and the State Forensic Service, the court denied Begins request for release and instead reinstated the terms of the October 3, 2013, order allowing him to return to the ...

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