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Wittenberg student sentenced to treatment

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

Ayele was charged with the attempted rape and aggravated burglary after a January 16 incident involving a female Wittenberg student who told police she was sleeping when someone came into her bedroom, ripped the covers off her bed and climbed into bed with her nude. The woman said she was able escape unharmed from the suspect, later identified as Ayele, and went into a roommate's bedroom, where they called police, 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, police said.

The prosecutor's office dropped the attempted rape charge before Ayele's trial began Wednesday morning.

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

It is very rare that a defendent is found 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.

As a defense attorney for more than 20 years, VanNoy said he has had his "fair share" of clients who suffer a mental illness at the time of their crime and that in Ayele's case, like the majority of times, the legal system accounts for mental disease.

"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.

Ayele will return to a Clark County courtroom after doctors at Summit Behavioral Healthcare Hospital determine he is no longer required to be hospitalized.

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