Saturday, 18 May 2024

Man found insane at time of attack to receive treatment

LAKEPORT – On Monday a Lucerne man who was found insane when he attempted to kill his grandmother nearly three years ago received an eight-year sentence.


Jason Kaluna Fugit, 36, will go to the Napa State Hospital where he will receive treatment for his mental illness, said his defense attorney, Stephen Carter of the law offices of Carter and Carter.


Fugit, who worked as an equipment operator, was charged in 2005 with attempted murder, kidnapping and robbery for the attack on his 78-year-old grandmother at her Lucerne home, said Carter.


According to Carter, Fugit tried to kill his grandmother because he thought she was involved in treasonous acts along with the government, which he believed was persecuting him.


Fugit was diagnosed as psychotic by three different doctors, said Carter, with the mental illness stemming directly from severe sexual abuse that took place several years before the incident. He'd had some “not very serious” previous run-ins with the law.


The charges could have brought life in prison. However, Carter said Fugit entered a plea bargain in which he pleaded guilty to elder abuse. A court trial was held on the manner of his sanity, and the court found that Fugit was insane at the time of the crime.


The case took time to work its way through the courts, said Carter. Because Fugit was found both insane and incompetent to stand trial, he was sent to a Southern California mental health facility where he spent 224 days in treatment before returning to the Lake County Jail.


While in Southern California, Fugit's treatment included adjusting his medications, said Carter, which resulted in a major improvement in his behavior. Fugit's mother told Carter that she felt like she had her son back, thanks to the treatment.


Carter himself said he saw a major change in Fugit, who went from “desperate mental illness” to a quiet demeanor.


Once back from treatment, Fugit went through a restoration of competency hearing and proceedings continued, said Carter.


Deputy District Attorney Rachel Abelson, who prosecuted the case, argued for the upper term of 11 years, disagreeing with a proposal for a lesser term put forward by Lake County Probation, said District Attorney Jon Hopkins.


“We agreed that he was insane,” Hopkins said.


Arguing before Judge Arthur Mann on Monday, Carter made the case that the law recognizes that the early plea and the mental illness were mitigating factors that should reduce the sentence. He also argued for some of the sentence to run concurrently.


Mann sentenced Fugit to eight years. Because of his mental health issues, Fugit is being sent to Napa State Hospital, where his family can visit him. Because there is usually a waiting list for the Napa hospital, Carter said Fugit will remain at the Lake County Jail until there is an opening.


According to the California Department of Mental Health, Napa State Hospital is a low- to moderate-security facility located on 138 acres, with bed capacity that allows for treatment of as many as 1,362 adults. All of the individuals treated there arrive through civil or court commitments, with the most frequent diagnoses including schizophrenic, mood, anxiety and personality disorders.


Carter said Fugit's mother, father and grandmother were in court on Monday, and appeared pleased with the outcome. Fugit's grandmother, said Carter, understood her grandson was ill, loved him dearly and and wanted him to get healthy.


“There was a nice closure today,” he said.


According to the law, Fugit is being sent to Napa for treatment and rehabilitation, and sanity hearings could resume during that time, said Hopkins.


Fugit can only be held at the hospital for the maximum amount of time he would have served on the sentence, said Hopkins, unless when the time for release comes he's found to still be a danger.


If that were to be the case, Hopkins said the prosecution can file a petition to have Fugit kept at the hospital as long as he's considered dangerous.


That means that we approved a plea bargain that can keep him in the state hospital for the rest of his life,” he said. “Based on the brutality he demonstrated in the attack on his grandmother, that is a real possibility.”


Carter said that some people never get out of the mental hospital once committed. However, he added, “That's the exception rather than the rule.”


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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