Yesterday I got an email from a woman who was understandably upset at learning that David Belluno, who sexually assaulted a woman at Minto Brown Park last Monday afternoon, had sexually assaulted a different woman at Minto Brown Park back in 2018.
Her message said:
I definitely sympathize with anyone who is outraged that Belluno was freed in 2019 after being charged with first-degree kidnapping, first-degree sexual abuse, attempted first-degree rape, attempted unlawful sexual penetration, unlawful use of a weapon and fourth-degree assault.
A December 2019 Salem Reporter story says that those charges were dropped after it was determined by a Marion County Circuit Court judge that Belluno wasn't fit for trial. He was committed to the Oregon State Hospital, but the story describes in detail why the judge eventually determined after a series of psychological assessments that the law required him to be released.
(This issue is so important, I'm hoping the Salem Reporter is OK with me sharing the story as a PDF file so those who aren't subscribers can learn how Belluno came to be freed.)
Download Judge drops charges against man arrested last year for alleged attack in Minto-Brown Island Park
It seems to me that this case points to the difficult balancing act that has to occur when someone with serious mental problems or limitations commits a serious crime. Belluno appeared to be competent enough to realize that he was better off at the State Hospital than in jail, but not competent enough to be tried for his alleged crimes.
Hopefully Belluno's case is an aberration, rather than commonplace. There's certainly grounds for finger-pointing at everyone involved in his 2019 release, but my reading of the Salem Reporter story led me to feel that by and large, his 2019 release was the fault of a hole in our legal and mental health systems, as noted in a Salem Reporter story about the most recent attack.
A psychologist at the time diagnosed Belluno with a mild intellectual disability and determined that he was unable [to] help in his own defense.
Judge Courtland Geyer determined that because Belluno’s mental health was unlikely to improve to the point that he could stand trial, Oregon law required that the charges be dismissed.
Katie Suver, former Marion County deputy district attorney, told Salem Reporter in 2019 that Belluno’s release magnified what she called a “hole in the process.”
Suver said at the time that an expert hired by her office determined that, with the right treatment, Belluno might improve enough to face the charges, but Geyer ruled that he couldn’t mandate such treatment.
The judge dismissed Belluno’s charges “without prejudice,” meaning they could be refiled.
Currently Belluno is being held in jail without bail and is facing charges for both the 2018 and 2022 attacks.