A man serving a lengthy prison sentence for robbery and other offenses wants to be transferred back to Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta, claiming a judge erred nine months ago in discharging him from the hospital for those with psychiatric problems.

Michael J. James, 34, is being held in the newly created special mental health unit at the Maine State Prison in Warren, and his earliest release date is Dec. 7, 2021. A state psychiatrist has described James as a “predator” with a personality disorder.

His attorney, Harold Hainke, argued in April that James was not ready to leave and needed continued treatment in the state hospital in Augusta, which had petitioned for James’ release. Hainke has appealed the decision to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

Hainke said his client is “doing good” at the state prison, but noted that it’s a “dramatically different environment than he was in before.” Riverview is the only state hospital that houses mentally ill criminals who have been found in court not responsible for their actions so that they can receive treatment.

James has been shuttled between Riverview and the state prison a number of times previously, according to his case records.

Heinke said the unit in Warren is “a mental health unit within a prison. It is not a psychiatric hospital.

“The mental health unit shouldn’t be a place where we house psychiatric patients just because we can’t handle them at Riverview,” he said.

The state, represented by the Kennebec County District Attorney’s Office, says the judge was correct to discharge James from Riverview, and the decision should stand.

“He had finished the treatment protocol that Riverview had,” said District Attorney Maeghan Maloney.

Meantime, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court is asking for written opinions until Feb. 3 from other parties who want to weigh in. The question before the court will be whether the hospital had to prove that James was no longer suffering from the mental condition that led to a jury finding him not criminally responsible in 2006 for a series of assaults on guards at the Maine State Prison. The case could be argued before the state’s high court this spring.

A psychiatrist who treated James testified he was diagnosed with anti-social personality disorder and described him as a “predator,” according to a brief filed with the Maine Supreme Judicial Court by Maloney and Assistant District Attorney David Spencer.

Dr. Alexander Raev also testified that James “understands reality very well, that the threats he makes to people are not impulsive but are instead very well thought out as are his instances of self-harm,” according to the state’s brief. James “has learned to use such behaviors to get what he wants,” it adds.

That testimony came April 10 at a hearing in Kennebec County Superior Court before Justice Donald Marden, the same judge who presided over the 2006 trial in Knox County in which a jury found James not guilty by reason of insanity in a series of attacks over a yearlong period on corrections officers at the Maine State Prison, then in Thomaston. After the trial, Marden ordered James into the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services.

James, in an interview with the Kennebec Journal in August 2013 about patients assaulting Riverview staff, said he was tough to handle when he first came to Riverview in 2007. A 2008 letter from the hospital estimated James caused about $20,000 in damage to the hospital.

“Staff did get hurt back then as a direct and indirect result of my actions,” James said.

“I was once a very aggressive, angry young man, but with therapy and groups and medication, I have done a lot of work toward benefiting myself,” James said. “It just shows that Riverview is by no means a failure.”

Four months later, though, James allegedly threatened to harm and kill staff members at Riverview.

When James made the threats to staff on Dec. 4, 2013, he had “a chain wrapped around his hand and he attempted to hit staff members with it,” according to an affidavit by Capitol Police Officer Richard Alexander.

Alexander said after making the threats, “Mr. James was locked in an isolation room where he cut his arm with a piece of glass.”

For making those threats, James had to pay a $300 fine.