AUGUSTA — After almost eight years as a patient at Riverview Psychiatric Center, Michael James was ordered discharged from the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services’ commissioner following a day-long court hearing Thursday.
James, 31, through his attorney Hank Hainke, said he was not yet ready to leave the hospital because he needs more treatment for the mental defect or disease that put him there. James was a forensic patient, which means he was sent there after being found not criminally responsible of committing a crime. In James’ case, it was for assaulting corrections officers.
Treatment providers and others at Riverview, the state forensic hospital, testified Thursday in favor of a complete discharge for James, saying they had done all they could for the man with an antisocial personality disorder rather than a mental illness.
Now James is headed to Maine State Prison where he has about eight years remaining on a 12-year robbery sentence from superior court in Auburn plus a couple of years for other assault convictions.
James, wearing a white sweatsuit, was accompanied to the hearing in Kennebec County Superior Court by a staff member from Riverview. James left just before 5 p.m. in handcuffs, escorted by deputies, headed for a night next door at the Kennebec County jail before being transferred to prison.
In his opening statement, Hainke said James was prepared to listen to the testimony and abide by the judge’s decision. James did not testify.
Assistant District Attorney David Spencer, who represents the state, told Justice Donald H. Marden that it is time for James to move on with his life because he no longer suffers from mental disease or defect and should be discharged according to state statute.
At least twice Marden reminded those present that the focus of the proceeding was to determine whether James “should or should not be any longer in the custody of the commissioner” of the Department of Health and Human Services.
Marden himself placed James there following a 2006 jury verdict finding James not criminally responsible for assaulting corrections officers at the prison.
Marden alluded to that verdict, noting that James had been held for long periods of time in segregation or solitary confinement for disciplinary problems, losing privileges a step at a time and finally left “with nothing to read, nothing to see, nothing but four walls to look at 23 hours a day.”
That led to James’ assaulting corrections officers attempting to deal with him.
“He reduced to an animalistic state, making things out of his feces and banging his head against the wall,” Marden said.
On Thursday, psychiatrists, psychologists and a psychiatric nurse practitioner at Riverview testified about James’ antisocial personality disorder and his bullying behavior designed to manipulate and threaten staff and fellow patients to get what he wants, and occasionally cutting himself to get his way.
Alexandar Raev, a psychiatrist at Riverview, said he quit treating James directly after two months last year because he no longer trusted him.
“In my 10 years working in the Georgia Department of Corrections, no one tried to kill me there,” Raev said. “This man (with) whom I thought we had good relations tried to kill me.”
Raev said James “perfectly fit the criteria of psychopathy,” and that his actions are intentional rather than impulsive.
“He’s a predator,” Raev testified.
Brendan Kirby, a psychiatrist who is clinical director at Riverview, said James’s prime pathology is personality disorder and coercive bullying behavior and he lives in a setting with a number of vulnerable individuals, likening that to having a fox in a henhouse.
Kirby also pointed out that it was unusual for the hospital to tell the court that a patient is not benefiting from the care.
Betty Adams can be contacted at 621-5631 or at: