A 23-year-old man who admitted setting fires at a Hollywood synagogue and a hillside residence in Beverly Hills was sane at the time of the crimes, a judge ruled today.
Dmitriy Sheyko pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity on Feb. 26 to 22 counts, including arson, burglary and use of a destructive device. The defendant, who suffers from schizophrenia according to expert testimony during a two-day sanity hearing, waived his right to have a jury hear his case.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Sam Ohta read a lengthy analysis of the facts and California case law related to an insanity defense before making his ruling.
“The burden of proof is on the defendant” to show that he is incapable of knowing or understanding what he did or of distinguishing right from wrong, Ohta said.
Over a period of four days, Sheyko burglarized a Fresh & Easy market, broke into a classroom and set a fire at Temple Israel Hollywood, and broke into a home and guesthouse on Beverly Ridge Terrace, returning later to set fires on the property.
A doctor who testified for the defense said Sheyko’s answers in an interview with Los Angeles Police Department officers were “odd” and “disjointed” as a result of what he characterized as the defendant’s severe mental illness.
Talking about setting fire to a drum, the young man told officers, “I felt really bad because drums are really expensive, but I get intrigued.”
But an expert for the prosecution pointed to the defendant’s calm cooperation with officers as evidence that he was not in the midst of a psychotic episode.
Ohta singled out a videotaped interview with arson investigators as “highly illuminating.” During the interview, Sheyko was alert and able to remember complicated sequences of what he had done, according to the judge, who stressed that he had sympathy for the defendant’s illness.
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Category: Synagogue/Jewish Security