AUSTIN, Texas - A man convicted of assault in Travis County was released from jail just two weeks after sentencing.
Thirty-eight-year-old Timothy Mitchell was sentenced to 200 days in jail for attacking two people on the Congress Avenue bridge.
Judge Brandy Mueller said her courtroom fell completely silent as Mark Dolan took the stand to read his victim statement.
“In nine years as a judge, the victim's statement in that case was one of the most moving that was ever made before me and it was as serious a misdemeanor as I've seen,” said Mueller.
In October, Dolan was jogging along the bridge when he said he saw Mitchell hit Ashley Goodrich, who was visiting Austin with friends. Dolan stepped in to help Goodrich get away. Then Mitchell attacked him.
Seventy-three days later, Mitchell accepted a plea deal. The prosecutor said it was offered as a way to make sure Mitchell was convicted on both assaults.
“[The defense] had filed some paperwork indicating they might try to pursue an insanity defense on this case. We would've hopefully prevailed, but, with a medical testimony, you're never 100 percent sure of an outcome,” said Jason Steans, the assistant director of behavioral health and treatment courts, who prosecuted the case against Mitchell.
Judge Mueller sentenced him to 200 days in jail.
“In the end, as reluctant as I was, I felt compelled to approve that. And one of my first concerns was whether or not the complaining witnesses, the victims, felt comfortable with that and the state indicated that they were,” said Mueller.
However, Dolan and Goodrich said they were not comfortable with that sentence. What made them even more uncomfortable was finding out Mitchell was released two weeks later thanks to manual labor credit. That decision was made by guidelines at the Travis County Sheriff's Office.
“We took this and handled this as a very specialized case and think that the 200 days was adequate. I can understand people being concerned that it wasn't a felony, but, under our laws and the way they play out, it's not something I can charge with a felony,” said Travis County Attorney David Escamilla.
Dolan hoped Mitchell would at least be mandated to seek treatment following his sentence. That’s something Judge Mueller said could only be enforced if Mitchell was put on probation.
“The really difficult aspect of this is that the defendant is not eligible for probation because he's transient, has no residence, and, in order for us to enforce mental health treatment, in other words, the requirement that he seek an assessment and that he return for treatment, that can only be enforced if a defendant is on probation,” Mueller said.
The Travis County Probation office said that there is currently no statute preventing probation for homeless persons.
Prosecutors said even in previous cases, Mitchell has refused treatment, instead opting for jail time. While they realize the dangers of leaving Mitchell’s mental illness untreated, they cannot force him to seek help.
“Most mentally ill people are not violent people, but this is a bad example of things that can go wrong when we have difficulty treating somebody, unfortunately, out in the community,” Steans said.
While prosecutors focused on getting convictions against Mitchell and avoiding an insanity defense, in this case, it may have helped enforce treatment. The National Alliance on Mental Illness states "People who are found not guilty by reason of insanity are usually committed to secure mental health treatment facilities for indefinite periods of time."