An accused Fullerton child molester won an appeal under a new law that allows some defendants to have their legal case suspended to enter into a mental health program that makes them eligible to have charges dismissed, according to court records obtained Tuesday.
Rick Ramelb Black, 35, appealed a court order denying his “pretrial mental health division” request under the new state law. A panel of 4th District Court of Appeal justices ruled on Monday that Black should get another hearing to determine his eligibility for the program.
Black was charged on Jan. 5, 2017, with sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl in Fullerton between May and November 2016.
Last November, Black filed a motion that included nearly 200 pages of exhibits to show his eligibility for the diversion program. Prosecutors replied with a “two-page opposition” pointing out that the defendant is ineligible for the program because if convicted of the charges he is facing, he would have to register as a sex offender, and sex offenders are not eligible for the program.
Black’s attorneys, however, argued that the prohibition of sex offenders was an amendment to the law applied after he originally petitioned for admission to the program.
The program allows a court to grant a defendant’s request to register in the program if they can prove a mental disorder, and that it was a “significant factor” in the crimes alleged. The defendant must also show that he or she would respond to mental health treatment and does not pose an “unreasonable risk to public safety,” according to the justices.
If the defendant does not show any progress, the criminal case can be revived. But if the defendant does respond to the treatment, a judge can dismiss the charges.
Since Black applied for the program before the law was amended to block sex offenders, he deserves another eligibility hearing, the justices ruled.
The crimes alleged against Black do not fall under the category of “violent felonies. Thus, petitioner’s current charges are not `the types of charges that affect public safety’ under the applicable 2018 statutory definition, and the People’s contention to the contrary was not well-taken,” the justices wrote in the opinion.
The justices faulted prosecutors for not providing more specifics on their opposition.
“Nothing was said about the circumstances of the case, any prior criminal history, antisocial behavior, instability, or any problems petitioner had experienced since he was originally charged,” the ruling says. “In other words, the People offered nothing suggesting petitioner individually posed a current or future danger to public safety within the meaning of the statute.”
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