PITTSBURGH — A judge has reversed his own ruling and ordered a teenage boy awaiting trial in a Pennsylvania high school stabbing rampage to remain in a juvenile detention center and receive mental health treatment there.
Westmoreland County Judge Christopher Feliciani changed his ruling Tuesday because he and the attorney for Alex Hribal couldn't find a secure mental hospital willing to treat the boy, either because he's a minor or because of security risks involved, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review first reported.
"It's pathetic," defense attorney Patrick Thomassey told The Associated Press on Wednesday. "Judge Feliciani is as frustrated as I am. What's our budget in this state? Billions? And we can't find a place for this young man because of his age?"
Hribal, of Murrysville, who turned 17 last week, is charged with attempted homicide, aggravated assault and a school weapons violation for stabbing 20 students and a security guard at Franklin Regional High School on April 9. They all survived, though four students were critically injured at the time. The school is about 15 miles east of Pittsburgh, and the court where Feliciani is based is about 30 miles east of the city.
Thomassey acknowledges the boy committed the crimes using two 8-inch kitchen knives he took from home, but said Hribal has mental issues that need to be addressed at a hospital. Instead, two doctors will treat the boy while he remains at the county's detention center.
Feliciani had ordered Hribal moved to a mental hospital after a four-hour hearing Sept. 26. At the hearing, two psychological experts hired by the defense testified the boy may be developing schizophrenia and needs intensive, ongoing, inpatient mental health treatment.
The judge and attorneys were told that Southwood Psychiatric Hospital near Pittsburgh had agreed to admit Hribal, but officials there balked citing security concerns, Thomassey said. Officials at the hospital haven't returned calls for comment.
District Attorney John Peck and his psychiatric expert, Dr. Bruce Wright, disagreed with defense experts and proposed keeping Hribal in the juvenile facility but allowing him to visit a psychiatrist or having one brought in to treat him. That is what will happen now that no inpatient treatment options were found.
"That's what Dr. Wright felt was appropriate and as it turns out it was the circumstances that dictated that because neither the judge nor Mr. Thomassey was able to locate a facility to treat him," Peck told the AP.
Thomassey said Hribal needs more intensive treatment, including group therapy, which he can't receive at the juvenile center because the nine other minors there aren't being treated and can't participate in Hribal's care.
The judge's new order simply requires a psychiatrist and a psychologist to treat Hribal "for such periods and at such a frequency" as they "deem appropriate."
Thomassey has said he'll soon file a document asking that Hribal's case be moved from Common Pleas, or "adult" court, to juvenile court, where a judge could incarcerate or order Hribal supervised only until he's 21. Hribal faces decades in prison if convicted in Common Pleas court, and Peck has said he'll oppose moving the case to juvenile court.
Wherever Hribal is eventually tried, Thomassey expects the boy's mental state will be an issue in his defense.
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