In shooting case, Lee man’s psychiatric evaluation plays role in judge’s ruling
PITTSFIELD -- A 53-year-old Lee man charged with shooting his stepson and a dog in December 2012 had his case continued without a finding of guilt for three years.
On Tuesday in Berkshire Superior Court, First Assistant Berkshire District Attorney Paul J. Caccaviello said two different psychiatric reports found Phap D. Nguyen lacked criminal responsibility for his actions and that the he should not be committed to a secure facility. Because of this, the DA’s Office and Nguyen’s attorney, Nathaniel K. Green, crafted a disposition that took into account "the community’s concerns, the defendant’s need and the intertwining of the two within the confines of what we had to work with."
The joint recommendation was for a continuation without a change of plea for three years on single counts of armed assault to murder and animal cruelty. Conditions were attached that include the defendant take his daily medications, continue therapy and regular visits with a Department of Mental Health worker, undergo consultations to assess changes in mental and neuro-cognitive functioning, and not possess firearms.
According to police and prosecutors, on the afternoon of Dec. 13, 2012, Nguyen uttered profanity, took a 9 mm pistol and shot his now 32-year-old stepson, Jeremy Lee Deane, once in each leg and once in the abdomen. He then shot Deane’s dog once in the head, killing it.
The shooting at the family’s Beartown Mountain Road home drew a response of force from law enforcement, including Lee Police and Massachusetts State Police, as well as officers from Lenox, Stockbridge and Pittsfield, and members of the Berkshire County Special Response Team.
Lee and Massachusetts State police said they found Nguyen distraught when they arrested him at the residence, shortly after the shooting.
Deane was treated for his wounds at Berkshire Medical Center and released five days later.
Leading up to the incident, Nguyen had been acting unstable, and told his daughter that "the devil" was "coming to get him" and that Deane was "pushing him toward the devil," according to a police report.
Nguyen, who is originally from Vietnam, previously suffered "flashbacks," and had been on painkillers for chronic back pain, according to what his family told police.
He was held without bail after his arrest and spent six weeks under observation at a psychiatric facility. Doctors there determined that he was competent to stand trial and he was released on $5,000 bail.
Early on, the Berkshire District Attorney’s Office acknowledged there were likely "criminal responsibility issues" in the case.
On Tuesday, Judge John A. Agostini sentenced Nguyen in line with the joint request.
If Nguyen abides by his conditions and stays out of trouble, the charges will be dismissed at the end of three years. If not, the case could be put back on the trial list.
According to Caccaviello, Deane agreed with the resolution.
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