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November 16, 2002
By GARY LIBOW; Courant Staff Writer
MIDDLETOWN — A man who was cleared of a 1997 bank robbery because the crime was found to have been Prozac-induced was recommended Friday for permanent release from a state mental hospital.
Connecticut Valley Hospital — to which Christopher DeAngelo was committed following his acquittal in 2000 — asked the state Psychiatric Security Review Board Friday to allow DeAngelo to move into his mother’s Derby home as he seeks employment and his own lodging.
DeAngelo has been on temporary leave in his mother’s custody since February.
Chase and Amble agreed that a comprehensive outside treatment plan, composed of regular screenings by an Ansonia mental health provider and daily phone calls to the hospital, would monitor DeAngelo’s mental health adequately and help ensure he took lithium and other medications.
Judge Richard E. Arnold acquitted DeAngelo of the bank robbery in 2000. The judge sentenced him to up to 10 years in Connecticut Valley Hospital, saying the 30-year-old was a serious threat to society.
The acquittal was unprecedented in Connecticut. Arnold found DeAngelo not guilty of robbing First Union Bank in Derby in 1997 by reason of mental defect or disability. DeAngelo’s defense counsel had argued his client was taking two to three times the amount of Prozac normally prescribed when he robbed the bank.
During Friday’s hearing, Chase said DeAngelo remained “clinically stable” and has performed well while on temporary leave. He has been in his mother’s custody.
Chase said there was a glitch March 27, when DeAngelo was about a half-hour late in making his required phone call back to the hospital. But he called the patient “reliable and responsible,” one who has invested himself in his treatment.
Chase testified DeAngelo was attending Alcoholics Anonymous meeting twice weekly, and spent eight hours a week in the hospital electrical shop learning a trade.
DeAngelo will seek work as an electrician in Derby, Chase said, noting his mother was keenly aware of warning signs should her son’s mental health deteriorate.
Chase said DeAngelo acknowledges his mental illness, and occasionally becomes irritable and upset when anxious. DeAngelo has employed coping skills to limit his excessive worrying to a few minutes, several times a day, he said.
Amble said that a series of conditions will be instituted if the review board grants DeAngelo’s permanent release, including regular checks and therapy with the Ansonia-based mental health agency and regular telephone contact with Connecticut Valley Hospital staff.
Amble testified that he anticipated DeAngelo would obtain full-time employment, and hospital staff would review whether his prospective workplace had a productive atmosphere.
The review board is scheduled to deliberate on DeAngelo’s case Dec. 6, and is likely to render a decision the following week.