Friday July 5, 2013

BRATTLEBORO -- Nearly five months after he was charged with assaulting an Austine School for the Deaf staff member, Timothy Carroll is headed back to his home state of Massachusetts.

The 22-year-old former Austine student, having been declared not mentally competent to stand trial, was released on Wednesday into the custody of his father.

Carroll must undergo continued mental-health treatment in Massachusetts, but he was not ordered to be confined to a hospital there. The arrangement is the result of an agreement between the Windham County State's Attorney's office and Carroll's court-appointed defense attorney, Mimi Brill.

"It makes so much sense to proceed this way," Brill said during a morning hearing in Vermont Superior Court, Windham Criminal Division.

Carroll, of Mashpee, Mass., had faced two felony charges -- kidnapping and aggravated assault -- in connection with the Feb. 7 incident at the school. Brattleboro police Officer William E. Davies Jr. said he found a female school employee crying outside her office. Her face was red, and there were red marks on her throat, Davies wrote in a court affidavit.

The victim told police that Carroll "became irate" after entering her office, then "went over and locked the office door from the inside." Carroll "grabbed the arms off her chair and threw them" at the victim, court documents say. As the victim moved behind a table, Carroll threw two chairs at her, police said.


Advertisement

Carroll also punched the victim in the back of her head and, as she tried to unlock the door, grabbed her throat, the affidavit says.

"It became hard for her to breathe as Carroll was squeezing her throat," Davies wrote, adding that the victim "thought she was going to die."

Carroll was admitted to the Brattleboro Retreat five days after the incident, court documents show. Five days after that, he was examined by Dr. Paul Cotton, a court-retained, Burlington-based psychiatrist. Cotton concluded that Carroll, who has been diagnosed with autism and schizophrenia in addition to being deaf, was not mentally competent to stand trial and assist in his own defense.

Carroll "lacks sufficient factual understanding of the proceedings" and could not define the role of a state's attorney, a judge, a trial, a jury or a witness, Cotton wrote.

"He lacks a rational understanding of the proceedings," Cotton wrote. "He does not understand the risk. He does not think he could receive additional penalties if convicted of the charge. He regrets not being able to, in his opinion, return to the Austine School."

With all parties involved agreeing with Cotton's assessment, Carroll had been receiving treatment at the Retreat until a few weeks ago.

But on June 17, Vermont Assistant Attorney General Mathew Viens wrote a letter saying Carroll's "providers at the Brattleboro Retreat have determined that he is no longer in need of inpatient treatment."

The state Commissioner of Mental Health "requests that Mr. Carroll be returned to court for further appearance and clarification of his status," Viens wrote.

Carroll was discharged from the Retreat and spent the past few weeks behind bars. That incarceration ended Wednesday with a court hearing that included sign-language interpreters so that Carroll could follow the proceedings.

Carroll "qualifies as a person in need of treatment, but that care is available in the community and need not be at the hospital level," said David Gartenstein, Windham County deputy state's attorney.

The court's order "calls upon Timothy to cooperate in his treatment plan in various ways, while also recognizing that he can return to Massachusetts with his father today," Gartenstein said.

"We wish Timothy the best and hope that he gets the support he needs in Massachusetts," Gartenstein added.

At this point, however, the charges against Carroll have not been withdrawn. A status conference will be held in 90 days to determine the status of those felony counts.

"The remedy where somebody is not competent is through the mental-health system," Gartenstein said, while adding that "we could return to court under some circumstances."

Also pending is a hearing to determine whether Carroll should be officially discharged from the Vermont Commissioner of Mental Health's custody. That hearing could be waived, but no decision was made Wednesday.

Gartenstein said he consulted with the victim in advance of Carroll's release to his father's custody.

"The victim faced significant risk of harm during this incident," Gartenstein said. "She recognizes the constellation of issues surrounding Timothy and is most concerned that he has the necessary, ongoing supervision and support."

Mike Faher can be reached at mfaher@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.