Charges dropped against accused coffee shop slasher

Posted May 25, 2010, at 11:20 a.m.

BANGOR, Maine — A Superior Court judge on Tuesday dismissed charges against a local man in connection with a stabbing last year at a Central Street coffee shop.

Justice William Anderson said he had no choice but to dismiss charges of attempted murder and aggravated assault against Jason Dean, 33, after the staff at Riverview Psychiatric Hospital in Augusta found it was unlikely he could be restored to competency in the foreseeable future.

Dean allegedly entered Java Joe’s Cafe at 98 Central St. at about 11 a.m. March 16, 2009, and walked behind the counter. He used a steak knife to cut the neck of the victim, who was washing dishes, according to court documents.

Bangor police said Dean did not know the woman, who was pregnant at the time of the attack. She suffered a 2-inch-long, half-inch-wide cut to the right side of her neck that police said was not life-threatening. She was treated at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor and released the same day, according to previously published reports.

Before being moved to Riverview, Dean was held at the Penobscot County Jail unable to make bail set at $50,000 cash.

Dean has agreed to remain voluntarily at Riverview, his attorney, David Bate of Bangor, told the judge Tuesday.

Dean has been there since Anderson ruled on March 1 that he was incompetent to stand trial for the unprovoked attack on the employee at Java Joe’s.

Dean functions at the level of a 7-year-old, according to Bate. He also suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder with hallucinations.

Bate told the judge Tuesday that Dean’s treatment goal was to be released eventually to a group home “where he would be supervised 24-7.”

Anderson ordered the Department of Health and Human Services to begin involuntary commitment proceedings against Dean. If a District Court judge does not commit Dean for treatment, he could legally leave Riverview and refuse treatment.

Anderson expressed concern over the lack of options the law provided in cases such as Dean’s.

“I have to admit I find this whole procedure troubling,” the judge said. “I don’t doubt the sincerity of Riverview, but decades ahead, a repeat incident could take place and the court has nothing it could do — no probation, for example — to keep that from happening. There’s really nothing I can do to prevent there from being a threat to the community in the future.”

Michael Roberts, deputy district attorney for Penobscot County, said after the hearing that he, too, found the court’s limited options “concerning given the crime that was committed.

“He was in a group home receiving treatment when this crime occurred,” Roberts said after the hearing. “We can only hope they’ll be more observant of him in the future.”

The prosecutor said that his office has spoken with the victim, who did not attend Tuesday’s hearing.

“I can assure you she is concerned over this state of affairs,” he said.

Efforts to reach the owner of Java Joe’s were unsuccessful Tuesday.

Defense attorney Bate said current law gives the court “pretty specific guidance up until this point [where charges must be dismissed]. Then the track basically disappears. On the other hand,” he continued, “the State Forensic Service can evaluate someone like Mr. Dean and put together a treatment plan that is designed to protect Jason and the public.”

The psychologists, psychiatrists and licensed clinical social workers who work at Riverview are overseen by the State Forensic Service.

If Dean had been found competent to stand trial and been convicted of the attempted murder charge, he would have faced up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $50,000.

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