California dad who drove family off cliff will get mental health treatment instead of trial

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. (AP) — A California radiologist accused of trying to kill his family by driving off a cliff along the Northern California coast will receive mental health treatment instead of standing trial, a judge ruled.

Prosecutors charged Dharmesh A. Patel, 43, with attempted murder after the Tesla he was driving plunged off a 250-foot (76 meters) cliff along the Pacific Coast Highway in San Mateo County, injuring his wife and two young children. All four survived the Jan. 2, 2023, crash in what one official called an “absolute miracle.”

San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said Wednesday he was disappointed with the judge's decision.

“I am disappointed with the court’s decision, but Judge Jakubowski carefully weighed the evidence and the facts and went the other way,” he said.

Patel, who was on a family road trip from Pasadena to the Bay Area, will have to complete a two-year mental health outpatient treatment program at a Bay Area hospital for the charges to be dropped, Superior Court Judge Susan Jakubowski ruled last week, KRON-TV reported.

Patel's defense attorney, Joshua Bentley, argued in May that the radiologist qualifies for mental health diversion under California law, the television station reported.

“It’s important to understand why we are here. Not everyone who commits a crime is a criminal. There is no question this is a very serious case. But the law encompasses this very situation,” Bentley told the judge.

Patel does not pose a danger to the community because he will be under an intensive psychiatric treatment program, as well as monitored with a GPS bracelet equipped with a siren, Bentley said.

Deputy District Attorney Dominique Davis argued that Patel should not qualify for a mental health diversion program because he poses "an unreasonable risk of danger to public safety,” KRON-TV reported.

Patel’s wife testified that she does not want her husband prosecuted. She said her children miss their father and they want him to return home, the television station reported.

Davis said the evidence showed that in the weeks leading up to the attempted triple murder, Patel experienced paranoia and delusions, which are symptoms of schizoaffective disorder.

The judge agreed with Patel's defense and said in her ruling that Patel doesn't have a history of violence and that his diagnosis of major depressive disorder played a significant role in his actions.

Patel, who has been in jail without bail since his arrest, will be held for several more weeks before being released to his parents' home in Belmont, Calif. He will be monitored by GPS, will have to surrender his driver’s license and passport, and will need to check with the court weekly, the judge ruled.