David Attias, the only person in recent Santa Barbara history to be found not guilty by reason of insanity, was back in court this week to determine whether he’s safe enough to be released from Patton State Hospital, where he’s spent the past 10 years, and into a supervised community treatment facility. In 2001, Attias, then a UCSB student with a lifelong history of serious psychiatric problems, drove his car into an Isla Vista crowd, killing three people and seriously injuring another.
According to his defense attorney, Attias has not been violent or started fights while at Patton, has stayed sober, taken his medication, and has made sufficient progress that hospital personnel are recommending his release. Prosecutor Paula Waldman dismissed those recommendations, describing them as, “crystal ball predictions” based only on his last 18 months. She claimed he’d been verbally aggressive and challenging throughout much of his court-ordered treatment, acting uncooperative, defiant, disengaged. In 2008, she said, he verbally “stalked” a woman he’d never met via telephone, sending such sexually explicit communications that she changed her number.
Jessica Perez, a clinical social worker at Patton, testified that Attias made significant strides after 2010, when he started taking a new medication that allowed him to really keep his emotions in check. The trial is expected to last at least a week and Waldman said she intended to put Attias on the witness stand.