California Doctor Who Drove Family Off Cliff Avoids Trial Due To Mental Illness

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Authored by Rachel Acenas via The Epoch Times,

A southern California doctor who purposely drove his car with his family off a cliff won’t face trial due to his mental illness, prosecutors announced.

Dharmesh Patel, 42, was granted a mental health diversion by a court due to evidence that shows the radiologist suffers from major depressive disorder, according to the San Mateo District Attorney’s office in a statement on Thursday.

The completion of a mental health diversion program in California allows a defendant to seek treatment and have charges against them dismissed.

“Weighing all factors, the court determined the defendant was suitable and granted the defense request for mental health diversion,’ Judge Susan Jakubowski said in her ruling, adding that his diagnosed disorder “has the required nexus to the criminal conduct.”

250 Feet Off a Cliff

Dr. Patel had pleaded not guilty to three counts of attempted murder after he drove his Tesla 250 feet off a cliff in January last year. His wife and two children, 7 and 4, were injured, but all survived the crash.

The car was traveling southbound on Pacific Coast Highway before flying off the cliff known as Devil’s Slide in San Mateo, about 20 miles south of San Francisco.

Local media footage captured images of the damaged Tesla under the cliff near the water’s edge.

Fire crews rushed to the scene after witnesses called 911. Firefighters rappelled off the cliff to rescue the children while helicopters hoisted the couple to safety.

“The damage to the vehicle indicated that it hit and flipped several times and landed mostly on its wheels,” Brian Pottenger, battalion chief, said at the scene.

“We were actually very shocked that we found survivable victims in the vehicle,” he added.

Psychologists Testify

The judge overseeing his case heard from several psychologists who testified that Dr. Patel appeared increasingly delusional in the days before the crash, which ultimately spiraled into a one-time psychotic episode.

Prior to the psychotic break, he often could not sleep at night and was consumed with negative thoughts, according to psychologists’ court testimony. The doctor drove his children off the cliff because he feared they would be kidnapped or sex trafficked. He also often thought about the nationwide fentanyl crisis and the war in Ukraine.

But his delusions stopped after receiving treatment behind bars, according to expert witness Dr. Mark Patterson, who also said Dr. Patel feels a lot of remorse for the crash.

“I see him as someone who is very motivated and amenable to treatment,” the doctor testified.

Dr. Patel’s attorney, Joshua Bentley, described him as “a good man” during a previous hearing to determine whether he was eligible for a treatment program, stressing that his wife begged for his release.

The doctor will remain jailed for several weeks during a so-called “bridging period.” He will be released to his parents’ home in San Mateo County but will not be able to leave the residence while he remains under house arrest.

The judge set a July 31 date to solidify details of his release.

Dr. Patel will continue to participate in therapy sessions, must report to court once a week to provide updates on his progress, and take twice weekly tests to show that he is complying with his medication.

He is also prohibited from drinking alcohol or taking drugs and must surrender his driver’s license and passport. He would also be barred from practicing medicine under the plan.


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