Determining the fate of a mentally ill woman convicted of stabbing her child's father led Common Pleas Judge Craig T. Trebilcock to remark on the state of mental-health care in this country.
"We've done away with a lot of our mental-health infrastructure in this country," he said at Wednesday's sentencing hearing.
Policymakers around the country have decided mentally ill people should be dealt with in the criminal-justice system, which is sometimes sensible and sometimes not, the judge said.
But if politicians think that's saving taxpayers any money, they need to think again, Trebilcock said.
At one point during the hearing, defendant Sherry India Lee-Phipps made a request: "Is there any way you can turn these voices off?"
The 26-year-old Baltimore woman also told the judge "people" in prison are plucking out her hairs, stabbing her with needles and scratching her in an attempt to infect her with the HIV virus. She said she's afraid to drink the water there.
"I want to go home," she said, and regain custody of her daughter. "I've been through enough."
Competent: Despite what the judge described as Lee-Phipps' severe mental-health issues, she was competent to stand trial and competent to be sentenced because she understands what's going on around her, the judge said.
Lee-Phipps does not believe she has mental-health issues and has refused to be treated, according to her Baltimore-based defense attorney, Ken Man.
Man suggested a time-served sentence, since she's wanted in Maryland for allegedly assaulting a police officer in Anne Arundel County. Man told the judge Lee-Phipps would be committed to a mental-health facility, evaluated and treated.
Concerns: But senior deputy prosecutor Seth Bortner expressed reservations, saying it's his experience Maryland regularly fails to follow through on prosecutions, and that serious cases simply fade away.
Trebilcock agreed he didn't have much confidence that Maryland would follow through.
The judge noted Lee-Phipps was charged with assault numerous times in that state, but in at least three of those cases the charges were dropped; in two other cases she avoided conviction.
After much discussion, Trebilcock said he wants to ensure Lee-Phipps gets the treatment she needs, but also wants to ensure she's not a danger to society.
Time-served: He sentenced her to time-served to 23 months in county prison, plus a consecutive year of probation.
However, he ordered she may only be released from prison after getting a "satisfactory commitment" from Maryland authorities that they intend to place her in a mental-health facility, treat her with medication and stabilize her mental condition.
Trebilcock said as part of Lee-Phipps' probation conditions she must submit to a mental-health evaluation and take all medications prescribed to her. He ordered she undergo intensive probation supervision to make sure Maryland follows through with treating her.
Once her condition is stabilized and she's released, she must take anger-management classes, the judge ordered.
The attack: A jury in March found her guilty of aggravated assault and defiant trespass for stabbing Samuel Vanloo at his home on Patriot Drive in North Codorus Township on April 29, 2011. She and Vanloo have a daughter together who is now 7, and Vanloo has full custody of her.
His wounds weren't life-threatening, but he was left with scarring, prosecutors said.
Lee-Phipps skipped out in the middle of her own trial to attend a custody hearing about her daughter, officials said.
For that, Trebilcock ordered Lee-Phipps to be locked up for 30 days for contempt of court. Her bail was revoked in her aggravated assault case and she's been locked up for 102 days, according to the judge.
-- Staff writer Liz Evans Scolforo can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.