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Judge rules suspect not guilty by reason of insanity

In a rarity in local courts, a Wittenberg University student on trial for aggravated burglary was found not guilty by reason of insanity Wednesday morning.

Clark County Judge Douglas Rastatter followed the recommendation of a clinical psychologist who said Belule Ayele, 21, suffered a “severe mental disease at the time of the offense and therefore he did not know the wrongfulness of his offense at the time,” according to the mental evaluation read aloud in court.

Ayele was also charged with attempted rape in connection with the January incident involving a female Wittenberg student. However, the prosecutor’s office dropped the attempted rape charge before Ayele’s trial began Wednesday morning.

It is rare that a defendent is found not guilty by reason of insanity, said Assistant Prosecutor Brian Driscoll, who could only recall two other similar instances in his more than 10 years of work in the county prosecutor’s office.

Ayele was ordered to undergo the least restrictive form of treatment by the court and will be treated for his mental illness at the Summit Behavioral Healthcare Hospital in Cincinnati. Once doctors determine he is competent, he will return to court and the court will make its own determination for his release back into society, said Anthony VanNoy, Ayele’s defense attorney.

A female Wittenberg student told police she was sleeping when someone came into her bedroom on Jan. 16, ripped the covers off her bed and climbed nude into the bed with her. The woman said she was able to escape unharmed from the suspect, later identified as Ayele, and went into a roommate’s bedroom, police said.

The woman’s roommate told police she told the suspect to get out of the apartment, at which point he replied, “Satan, sit down; I’m talking to you,” according to the arrest report. Ayele was taken into custody by Wittenberg police when they arrived at the apartment, the police report said.

Because of his mental state at the time of the incident, Ayele didn’t understand the consequences of his actions the night of the incident, VanNoy said. Ayele has received treatment in the county jail and has been taking medications for his mental illness for the past few months and is “heartbroken that he was even in this position” due to the illness, VanNoy added.

As a defense attorney for more than 20 years, VanNoy said he has had his fair share of clients who have a mental illness at the time of their crime and that the legal system accounts for mental illness.

“It goes pretty smoothly just like this and the court recognizes that these individuals have an illness, and we don’t want to criminalize illness — instead they need help,” VanNoy said.

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