Charges to be dismissed again for homophobic-graffiti suspect

gavel.jpgWe are at Seattle Municipal Court, where a brief hearing for 31-year-old Ryan Joshua Cox, arrested twice last year for serial vandalism in West Seattle – graffiti that usually included a three-word anti-gay slur – has just concluded. The goal of the hearing was to determine if he was competent to stand trial on the 10 counts of property destruction with which he was charged after his December arrest. After Cox’s first arrest last year, similar charges were dropped because he was found not competent, and the case was not determined to be one in which authorities might consider trying to “restore competency” through forced medication. This time, there was discussion that might be possible. But what just happened is that Cox was brought into the courtroom – thin and trembling in a brick-red jail jumpsuit – and asked if he knew why he was here; here is our transcription of what followed:

Cox: “I was being harassed by my relatives … to strike back at them (I did) anti-gay graffiti.”

Judge Edsonya Charles: “How does that strike back at them?”

Cox: “(unintelligible) The goal of the cult is to force me to commit suicide or turn gay, so I strike back by discriminating against all gay people.”

It was subsequently pronounced that he was determined — through his behavior in court as well as a report that was presented to the court — to be incompetent to stand trial. The city attorney who is here told the judge they believed “restoration is not possible in the time we have” (we are waiting for her to become available after other cases, to explain what that means). So the charges are to be dismissed and Cox will be referred to Western State Hospital for “possible civil commitment.” Asked if he understood what that meant, Cox replied, “I could use the 40 bucks.” Judge Charles said, “I don’t know what that means, but …” Cox replied, “That’s the walking money they give you … when I was dismissed before.” And with that, officers led him back out of the courtroom. ADDED 3:06 PM: Per the city attorney’s rep – In a misdemeanor case, they are only given three weeks to try restoring competency; for felonies, the time frame is longer. The evaluation in this case suggested doctors saw little chance that Cox would respond to treatment in that time. So now instead, he will be referred for civil commitment, which we had discussed before with Mike Finkle, the city attorney’s office Mental Health Court expert. He explained that the hospital has 3 days for an evaluation and then the state can file a petition to have him involuntarily committed for 2 weeks inpatient or 90 days outpatient, after which the state can petition for a full hearing that could result in another 90 days of commitment and so on, up to, potentially, six months at a time. “Every six months, they either file a new petition, or release you,” it was explained.

24 Replies to "Charges to be dismissed again for homophobic-graffiti suspect"

  • Bianca January 20, 2010 (2:31 pm)

    Greaaat. We should have Mr. Cox back in our midst in no time. At least we know who to look out for now.

  • T-Rex January 20, 2010 (2:35 pm)

    Get out your paint thinners everyone!

    Our local anti gay tagger will be back soon. Appears he will eventually have to hurt someone in order to get rid of him completley. It is only a matter of time before this guys loses whatever gasket he may have left.

    Sad but scary.

  • JumboJim (the other and original Jim) January 20, 2010 (2:51 pm)

    Sad and scary is what I see in comments like those T-rex posts. Mental illness, which may be what this man is dealing with, is not a joking matter. You can be sympathetic about problems such as this without condoning any associated crimes.
    Ideally, this man’s dealings with Western State will get him the help he needs as well as protect the community.

    • WSB January 20, 2010 (2:54 pm)

      That is what the city attorney’s office is hoping, though I just learned a few more things about what the law allows, that I am about to add to the story – TR

  • amused January 20, 2010 (3:34 pm)

    He should get a Golden Globe for that performance

  • k January 20, 2010 (3:34 pm)

    i certainly hope he gets the help he needs, but hate the thought of the slurs showing up around town. my fear is something worse may happen.

  • Chris January 20, 2010 (3:42 pm)

    Sounds like his last stay at Western didn’t exactly help.

  • Denise January 20, 2010 (3:50 pm)

    This is incredibly frustrating. TR, I know his charges were dismissed last time as well, but was he referred to Western State that time also?

    I am ALL FOR Chris Gregoire’s proposed new sentencing option of “guilty and mentally ill” –

  • Art Critic January 20, 2010 (4:00 pm)

    The subject of mental illness is a very important one to a lot of people, especially those of us who love and care about someone dealing with chemical imbalance or whatever causes it. The current state of the mental health system is Kafka-esque. Any light WSB can shed on the whole process could enlighten the citizenry to demand political change. The families who care about folks with mental illness challenges appreciate any in depth coverage of the process.

    Having to get police involved in order to trigger a system into getting care for an individual is cruel and archaic at best, but currently the only way those who care most for an individual thus afflicted can get the help needed. In the American system people are free to be crazy leaving those who love them most to watch in horror as their lives can veer into an abyss. We need to fix this somehow. So thanks for the clarity and more in depth coverage and thanks for putting in the time WSB.

    On the subject of political change, I recieved an email today from the local chapter of NAMI:

    Please contact your legislator and ask him or her to: OPPOSE House Bill 2718 and Senate Bill 6310. They are the same bill. Its title is “Guilty And Mentally Ill.”

    One can find more information on Seattle NAMI website. Folks with mental illness deserve our compassion and understanding.

    • WSB January 20, 2010 (5:12 pm)

      Fred – I will be following up more tomorrow. I really want to do what we can to help, as you put it, shed some light on the process …this case is by no means unique. I stayed in the courtroom a while, waiting to speak with the city attorney rep, and sat through another case that proceeded almost exactly the same way … question for the suspect, weird answer, charges dismissed, off for evaluation. (I’m sorry I don’t know the details of the case.) I could have gotten bare-bones info on the disposition without coming to court but at least being here helped me understand, and relay, something about the process and what it’s like, which seems to have value in such a high-profile case … every morning there for a while this fall, I would open the inbox to another report from somebody “spotted the hate graffiti again, what is being done about this” – and of course police and city attorneys put time into it too – so the ultimate question is, now what? … TR

  • Chris January 20, 2010 (5:07 pm)

    Guess we still haven’t learned about releasing these loonies who then go off their meds or whatever and end up doing something atrocious. How many times will this episode be repeated?

  • Diana January 20, 2010 (7:14 pm)

    Art Critic, you have written well. I hope others will read and re-read your comments, pause to think, then reconsider.

  • Denise January 20, 2010 (8:10 pm)

    I just wrote to all of my legislators and urged their support of the guilty and mentally ill legislation. This guy is the poster child for why this bill should pass. West Seattle has been terrorized for long enough by him. He has tagged the property of people that I know, and they spent sleepless nights not knowing if they were being personally targeted. His comment about “I could use the forty bucks” was arrogant and flippant. Make him take responsibility for his actions, whether he’s mentally ill or not.

    • WSB January 20, 2010 (8:24 pm)

      Denise – There is one other thing mentioned to me by the city attorney. She says someone who was a direct victim could call Western State Hospital and say they want to talk to a doctor about this guy’s case to share information about how they were personally affected and are concerned. NOT for the general public to do, but she has offered that advice before, because she says it can make more impact than doctors just reading words on a report … tr

  • Amanda January 20, 2010 (11:17 pm)

    I just read the proposed “guilty and mentally ill” legislation. If what you want is to continue to lock up the mentally ill in prison with non-mentally ill prisoners, and do nothing to ensure that mentally ill offenders get real treatment, then this bill is for you. The statute, as proposed, provides that a person who is found (or pleads) guilty and mentally ill will receive the same sentence as a person who is not mentally ill and will serve it largely in the same institutions. The only change is a required evaluation period that is sufficient to “stabilize” the defendant and determine a course of treatment. The bill does not even require the Department of Corrections to comply with the treatment recommendations of the DSHS.

    As applied to someone like the WS anti-gay tagger, the process leading up to conviction would be precisely the same as it is now. If he was convicted and given, say, a 120 day sentence, he would first go to Western for an evaluation. The doctors might recommend something like antipsychotic medication, one-on-one therapy, and other treatment. Then, wihtin 90 days, he would be transferred back to the jail (or prison if the sentence was more than a year). He would be in the general population, maybe get his medications every morning, and probably get no other treatment. At the end of his sentence, he would be released without any state-sponsored ongoing treatment options. Hard to believe this will improve the odds that he won’t reoffend.

    I understand the concerns about allowing someone who is mentally ill and unable to control himself on the street. So far this particular offender’s crimes have been property-related, as opposed to physical violence against another person. That is hardly reassuring to those who have been victimized and who legitimately fear that he will escalate. Unfortunately, the criminal justice system is not well-designed to address the issue of future dangerousness — which is why someone charged with misdemeanors is unlikely to be forced into treatment. Nor have we developed a public-health oriented mental health system that will serve folks like this who need serious intervention before they commit a violent crime. We can all see the flaws in these systems when we are faced with a guy like our anti-gay tagger.

    But be careful before you jump onto the bandwagon for “guilty but mentally ill,” because it’s not going to address those problems. The proposed legislation was drafted in response to a single incident this past summer, and it has the flaws inherent in reactionary lawmaking. It will not ensure that offenders who need treatment get it before they are released; it will not add to post-incarceration mental health treatment options for prior offenders; and will not prospectively protect the public from mentally ill offenders who have not committed a violent crime yet. It just adds a new label and another layer of evaluation, diagnosis and recommendations — none of which we should necessarily believe will be followed.

  • Edgar January 20, 2010 (11:20 pm)

    As a victim of Mr. Cox’s anti-gay painting and also tire slashing, my biggest fear is an escalation of his activities. Last time he was arrested he was armed with a knife! He needs help and as long as he is running around the streets of West Seattle, he is not receiving the help he needs.

  • T January 21, 2010 (1:03 am)

    Thank you Amanda and Art Critic for writing about this with a clear head, and clearly some degree of personal experience. I’m not a WS resident (found this article through, but I know what a lot of you are going through. I live in constant fear of getting a phone call from the police that my brother (a paranoid schizophrenic) has finally snapped and murdered one or both of my parents. Based on what I’ve read and what he’s done in the past, that fear is pretty unfounded, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s there.

    I would love to see my brother get the treatment he needs and ideally, he would do that of his own choosing. Until he makes that decision, he’s basically stuck living with my parents who aren’t so heartless as to kick him out on the street. They did however have him arrested a few months ago for destruction of personal property on a particularly bad day for him. The judge had him found incompetent to stand trial, sent him to the hospital for evaluation where they got him on meds before releasing him to a less restrictive environment (aka home) at which point he ceased taking his meds. Sounds a whole lot like the same song-and-dance Cox has been through before.

    The legislation on the table right now won’t address the statewide systematic problems with dealing with the mentally ill. With my brother’s case or this case or any really, it’d only keep the mentally ill locked up for a few months longer before they’re back on the streets with no guarantees they’ve been receiving treatment at that point. They won’t get the treatment they need under these bills and there’s no checks in place to make sure they continue treatment once they’re released. I would hope some of you could see where there’s a vested interest in taking care of society’s mentally ill.

    All of that aside, I sincerely hope this is the closest any of you get to having to deal with a mentally ill person. It’s rough having to do it on a near-daily basis.

  • artsea January 21, 2010 (8:47 am)

    I would like to see those who treat the mentally ill be held responsible in some way for the results of their work. Much too often, we hear of someone being declared “cured” and able to return to society, only to find them quickly returning to their old ways. I have long felt that those treating the mentally ill are mostly quacks.

  • Concerned January 21, 2010 (10:28 am)

    So if letting him free again means that he’s going to strike again – what do we tell the business owners who were targeted and will be targeted again? He gets a free pass because he’s mentally ill… but what do we do to prevent the emotional damage and perhaps damage to their business? “He doesn’t know what he’s doing”? Doesn’t quite seem fair either, does it?

    It’s obvious that he needs to be treated in a different manner because he’s mentally ill but we’re not doing him any favors letting him out either. Not to mention the fact that he was armed last time and has usually been seen acting in an angry manner. Seems like a ticking timebomb to me.

    • WSB January 21, 2010 (10:35 am)

      I’m about to speak with the City Attorney’s Office for a followup and will publish a separate update with whatever we find out – we’ll be asking your question and others – TR

  • Miss Daphne January 21, 2010 (11:35 pm)

    Where do we draw the line?
    How do the citizens feel about their neighborhoods, knowing a mentally ill person who arms himself with a knife will be on the streets?
    What of our children, our elderly,our pets, our buildings, cars, businesses?
    The decision to allow him to be out on the street is just unacceptable.

  • Concerned January 22, 2010 (8:17 am)

    And furthermore – isn’t this STILL a hate crime? It perpetuates hate (in a place where children can see it) and even though it’s not coming from a sane place, it’s still there. He IS targeting specific people who he believes to be gay, so isn’t that SQUARELY a hate crime regardless?

  • MimiC January 22, 2010 (10:01 am)

    “I was being harassed by my relatives … to strike back at them (I did) anti-gay graffiti.”

    Graffiti? this isnt graffiti, graffiti is an art, this is just a standard way of writing on walls, i am a graffiti artist and people scribbling on walls and calling this graffiti inrages me. this sort of thing makes proper graffiti artists frowned apon.

  • Outraged January 22, 2010 (4:36 pm)

    “How do the citizens feel about their neighborhoods, knowing a mentally ill person who arms himself with a knife will be on the streets?
    What of our children, our elderly,our pets, our buildings, cars, businesses?
    The decision to allow him to be out on the street is just unacceptable.”
    What about those that are let out on our streets that are completely competent and have committed violent crimes against innocent people?!!? This guy and the guy who attacked a person with a gun in the Admiral District are both residents of WS and “loose” in our community via the “justice system”.

Sorry, comment time is over.