WILMINGTON – After much discussion about alternatives to prison, Matthew R. Pitzer was released from prison Wednesday, after spending four weeks there.
Pitzer, 31, of Wilmington, was charged with one count of gross sexual imposition in the third degree December 2013, registering as a Tier II sex offender, and charged to four years in prison June 2013, with 225 days of credit.
He was judicially released in April and then was arrested in August after Pitzer called the Clinton County Sheriff’s Office saying he heard someone being shot in the head. It was later authorities learned Pitzer was off his medication for five or six days.
The resolution hearing Wednesday was held to see if there were any alternatives to prison for Pitzer. Clinton County Court of Common Pleas Judge John W. “Tim” Rudduck asked the state if they had any alternatives to prison at the Aug. 18 hearing, but Brian Shidaker, prosecuting attorney, said he did not.
Matt Sullentrop subbed for Shidaker in Wednesday’s hearing and Sullentrop told Rudduck the state changed its mind and was recommending Pitzer go back to prison to serve the rest of his four-year term.
The state told Rudduck it came up with three different plans for Pitzer to be released instead of staying in prison, but all of the plans were not structured enough for the state to feel comfortable releasing Pitzer from prison.
“Prison is an appropriate place for Mr. Pitzer in this case,” Sullentrop said. “From the state’s perspective, there’s too many variables. There’s too many pieces that have to work together perfectly for any of these plans to work.”
Rudduck said he was confused by the state’s change since Pitzer did not commit a crime in August but rather broke the terms of his community control.
“I guess what I’m trying to understand is how the state’s position has changed so radically from four months ago that now it believes that a mentally ill person who has not committed a crime needs to go back in prison,” Rudduck said. “All I’m trying to figure out here is consistency.”
Rudduck also said the state’s policy on mentally ill people and prison time is confusing.
“I’m not a doctor, but it seems to me that (Pitzer’s) going to need treatment all his life,” Rudduck said. “The alternative is for mentally ill people … we just lock them up?”
The state said that there are no resources in Clinton County for Pitzer to be placed into instead of prison, which is why they were recommending a prison term. The state also was hesitant about releasing Pitzer from prison because of a different medication Pitzer is now taking.
Instead of oral medication, Pitzer receives a shot once a month to help his mental illness, the state said.
“From the state perspective we really don’t have much information about this injection,” Sullentrop said. “We are not comfortable with relying on that in this case.”
Pitzer’s counselor from Solutions, Sarah Gothard, said the injection is the best way to know a client is medicated because sometimes the counselors are not there when the client is given their pills.
Gothard said she has many clients who take the injections.
“I have many clients who stay out of the hospital who are in the top level of psychosis,” she said.
Gothard said Pitzer has already had the injection once and is due for another in the next couple of days. She said the injection is reliable and could stay in a person’s system for more than 30 days.
“If he wasn’t stable he would be responding to voices and not be able to control himself currently in this courtroom,” she said.
Gothard said she and her team meet with Pitzer six times a week and he now knows that he has a problem that needs to be worked on.
“He would have baseline delusions but we would talk about them,” she said.
Gothard said Pitzer cannot be placed in a lockdown facility, thus ruling it out as an alternative to prison, because he has to medically qualify for it, which he does not.
While Pitzer said he likes the injection a lot more than the pills, if he were ever too refuse the treatment, Gothard said her team would immediately contact his probation officer, Kelly Hopkins.
Hopkins told Rudduck he was not opposed to having Pitzer released from prison, as Pitzer will have a place to stay, which will make it easier for check-ups to happen.
Hopkins said Pitzer’s mother purchased another house that will be ready in about a month that Pitzer will be able to stay in. Additionally, Pitzer’s brother lives close to the new home, so his brother will be able to help take care of him.
“She’s willing to help him get back on his feet and take him in at her residence,” Hopkins said.
Of his four-year sentence for his charge of one count of gross sexual imposition in the third degree, Pitzer has served 919 days, 28 of which has occurred because of his current community control violation, Hopkins said.
Lindsey Fleissner, Pitzer’s public defender, told Rudduck Pitzer is more than willing to do whatever the court told him to do.
“He doesn’t want this to happen again,” she said.
Rudduck told Pitzer that no matter happens, he wants to see Pitzer follow the doctor’s orders when it comes to taking medication.
“It’s a difficult, difficult societal problem that we’re facing in this county, in this state and in this nation as to how we deal with folks who have mental health disabilities,” Rudduck said.
Pitzer said he believes he got to focused on his drug recovery, which is why he slipped on taking his medication. He said he knew he made a mistake, but he was ready to move on.
“The medicines were starting to kick in and then I just sabotaged myself,” he said. “I’m really eager to explore this injection and have a chance not to mess up again.”
Rudduck sentenced Pitzer to 28 days in prison, which he said was a harsh sentence for just violating community control. Because Pitzer went off his medications, the 28 days seemed justified.
“When Mr. Pitzer voluntarily chose to go off his prescribed medication that was a significant violation,” Rudduck said. “ There’s going to be a risk with mentally ill individuals.”
Rudduck said there was a chance that, while off his medication, Pitzer could have committed a much more serious crime. Rudduck said he believed the time in jail would give Pitzer the time to think about the consequences of going off medication.
Pitzer was given 28 days of credit and was released from prison Wednesday.
“I’m eager about this intensive case management,” Pitzer said. “I still have hallucinations and I still have issues, but I have the ability to understand that’s what they are and to throw them on the back burner and still move forward and be successful.”