PORTLAND – A man who has been in and out of jail for years for repeatedly exposing himself and masturbating in public was up for sentencing Thursday after pleading guilty to his latest charge of indecent conduct.
Rather than issue a sentence, Justice Roland Cole accepted a recommendation by a lawyer for Steven Ricci, 48, of 915 Brighton Ave., and ordered him committed to an “institution for the care and treatment of people with mental illness or mental retardation.”
The recommendation by attorney Peter Richard Jr. was an alternative approach to imposing a jail sentence like those Ricci had served. And the prosecutor assigned to the case, Deputy District Attorney Megan Elam, did not object to the commitment, according to court records.
Richard said Ricci will be sent to the state’s Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta for observation and treatment, and the State Forensic Service will evaluate his competency for sentencing.
Cole’s order is not a sentence, and though the commitment is indefinite until the state determines Ricci’s competency, the case may return to court for sentencing, Richard said.
“In speaking with my client, it is paramount that he receive treatment,” Richard said. “State Forensic Services has outlined a course of treatment. My client and I feel that is in his best interest.”
In the most recent case, Ricci had been out of jail for only a week on Aug. 12 when police caught him naked on his front porch, masturbating within sight of busy Brighton Avenue.
He had been arrested twice earlier in the year for masturbating in public, and his criminal history goes back to 1990, according to court records.
Police were exasperated after all of Ricci’s arrests. In late February of this year, they began a campaign to inform the Brighton Avenue neighborhood about Ricci’s release from jail. They issued fliers saying he had been diagnosed with a mental illness and has a long criminal history of sexually related offenses.
The charge he pleaded guilty to most recently, indecent conduct, is punishable by a maximum of 364 days in jail.
“The consensus of multiple experts is that jail is not the place for him,” Richard said. “We don’t know what’s going to happen with Steve, but we hope to make sure everyone’s interest is protected.”
Richard said Ricci is aware that he has “uncontrollable impulses” and he sought help before his most recent arrest.
Ricci was released in August after serving a six-month sentence for disorderly conduct and violating probation.
“Immediately upon his release, he sought treatment from providers who weren’t able to set it up for him,” Richard said.
An attempt to reach Elam for comment was unsuccessful.
Staff Writer Scott Dolan can be contacted at 791-6304 or at: