BARRE — A North Carolina man accused of aggravated domestic assault has been released to the custody and care of the state Department of Mental Health after being found not competent to stand trial.
It’s unclear where he’ll be staying, except that it will be somewhere in Chittenden County, after officials spent weeks trying to figure out where to place him because the department reported it has nowhere for him to go.
Jermaine Lattimore, 42, has been charged with felony counts of first-degree aggravated domestic assault and second-degree unlawful restraint, misdemeanor counts of disorderly conduct and unlawful mischief and two misdemeanor counts of domestic assault. Lattimore has pleaded not guilty to all of the charges.
For the aggravated domestic assault charge, police said Lattimore attacked a woman in Waterbury in March 2020. Police said the victim’s eye was nearly swollen shut from the assault and her lips were also swollen and cut and appeared to have dried blood on them. She also had a bruise on her left arm and scrapes on her right elbow, according to court records. The victim told police she tried to flee by going out the door, but Lattimore grabbed her and kept her from leaving.
For the misdemeanor domestic assault charges, police said Lattimore punched two people in the face at the Good Samaritan Haven homeless shelter in April 2019.
For the disorderly conduct and unlawful mischief charges, police said Lattimore assaulted someone at a bus stop at the Berlin Mall in August 2019 by punching them in the head.
Lattimore was ordered held on $10,000 bail for the aggravated domestic assault charge. He’s been housed at Northwest State Correctional Facility in St. Albans.
He was found not competent to stand trial earlier this month. Dr. Jonathan Weker conducted a competency evaluation on Lattimore and, according to court records, reported Lattimore lacks the ability to consult with his attorney with a reasonable degree of understanding. The doctor reported Lattimore may suffer from bipolar or a related disorder or an unspecified antisocial personality disorder.
Because of this finding, Lattimore has to be released from custody. But releasing him became a complicated task. He is from North Carolina and has no home, no family in the area or any real ties to the state. He also showed an unwillingness at times to engage in mental health services and had to be convinced to sign a medical waiver to allow service providers access to his medical records. Lattimore does have some resources in the form of stimulus dollars, which he has said he can use for a hotel room for temporary housing.
Washington County State’s Attorney Rory Thibault wanted to release Lattimore and allow him to go back to North Carolina.
“If he leaves, he leaves,” Thibault said.
He is not dismissing the charges against Lattimore, something often done when someone is found incompetent. The state’s attorney is leaving conditions of release in place for the sake of public safety. If Lattimore violates his conditions, including no violent or threatening behavior, he could face additional criminal charges and be brought back to court.
Thibault said in a court filing he would dismiss the charges after 90 days if Lattimore returns to North Carolina or he is actively engaging in treatment that mitigates his risk or it appears Lattimore’s competency cannot be restored.
At a hearing held in Washington County criminal court in Barre Friday, Assistant Attorney General Matt Viens, who represents the Department of Mental Health, reported there may have been temporary housing available through the Howard Center. That option came off the table after Lattimore allegedly assaulted an inmate at the prison earlier this week. Thibault said Lattimore is not expected to face any charges from that assault because it’s the policy of the Franklin County State’s Attorney’s office not to charge people involved in prison fights.
Attorney William Cobb, who represents Lattimore, said he didn’t have a clear answer as to where his client would be living once released.
Judge Mary Morrissey said her options were limited and has said leaving him behind bars or releasing him with the hope he goes back to North Carolina were not among those options. The judge said she could either release Lattimore on conditions or issue an order of non-hospitalization where he will receive treatment. She said the hope would be that Lattimore could be found competent to stand trial in the future or that the department can effectively supervise him.
She asked Viens what housing would be available if she issued an order for non-hospitalization that would place Lattimore in the department’s custody for 90 days. Viens said the Howard Center was the only option available in Chittenden County, the option that has since come off the table. Officials want him in Chittenden County because of the social services available there. Lattimore would also no longer be in Washington County and away from his victims.
Viens said the department would do its best to comply with the judge’s order, but there are no current housing plans for him. He questioned if the department is the right one to take custody of Lattimore, noting Lattimore’s incompetence appears to come from a personality disorder instead of a diagnosis for a mental health illness. Thibault agreed, saying much of Lattimore’s conduct is related to behavior and lamented the state’s lack of a forensic mental health unit that could better handle cases such as this.
The judge said she would issue the non-hospitalization order and strike the bail, allowing for Lattimore’s release. The order, issued late Friday morning, instructs Lattimore to receive treatment from the Howard Center and to reside in housing deemed appropriate by the treatment provider. A hearing has been scheduled for Oct. 22 to check on Lattimore’s status.