75 year old man with dementia can return to Santa Monica Mountains National Park
Following a verbal altercation with park rangers at Paramount Ranch in the Santa Monica National Park, our 75-year-old client was tasered and dragged out of his car, elbowed in the face, handcuffed, taken to the hospital, and then driven to Orange County to spend a night in jail. He was given six citations. Prosecutors refused to dismiss the case against him even after receiving neurological evidence of his dementia. The case went to trial. Our client was acquitted on the four most serious counts. He was found guilty of staying in the park after sunset. At the sentencing hearing, prosecutors argued that our client was a danger to the community and asked the court to put him on probation and issue a stay away order from the entire 150,000 acres of the Santa Monica Mountains National Park. Deputy Federal Public Defender Deborah Gonzalez argued that the client’s dementia was a sentence on its own, and that his age, physical and neurological health problems, lack of criminal history, and long productive career warranted a sentence of time served. She also argued that it would be overly punitive to ban him from the entire national park when his conduct took place on a very small part of it and he had lived in the middle of the Santa Monica mountains for over forty years, since before the land was even a public park. The federal magistrate judge was not convinced by the government’s arguments. He denied the prosecutor’s request for probation and a stay away order. Our client will now be able to return to the park, where he enjoys walking his neighbor’s dog, remembering teaching his children how to ride horses, how to fish, and how to sail in the park, and watching movies and television shows filmed at Paramount Ranch.
Attorney Deborah Gonzalez commented: “I believe the arrest and tasering could have been avoided had the park rangers adequately been trained in how to identify and respond to individuals with dementia. I also wish the prosecutor’s office had dismissed the case once it learned about the client’s dementia instead of spending valuable government resources on the trial and further adding stress to a sick and elderly man’s life. In the end, however, I believe justice prevailed and the Judge did the right thing in allowing the client to return home and spend his remaining years in the place that he loves.”