With their client’s sentencing on the horizon, lawyers for convicted felon Ross Farca attempt a last-minute effort to divert the 26-year-old from jail to court-supervised mental health counseling.
With a judge’s approval, Farca — convicted Dec. 1 of violating the civil rights of Jews, manufacturing an illegal AR-15-style assault rifle and threatening a police officer — could soon to be released through California’s Mental Health Diversion Program.
Farca’s arrest in Concord in June 2019 alarmed members of the Bay Area Jewish community after reports he posted a mass shooting targeting Jews online. “I would have a body count of around 30 kikes and then around 5 cops because I would also decide to fight to the death,” he wrote.
Although Farca has spent the better part of two years behind bars for breaching bail conditions and remains incarcerated, sentencing was postponed to give his lawyers time to argue the case for the alternative. The district attorney’s office argues that he should serve a maximum of nine years in state prison.
The diversion program gives California judges wide latitude to give those accused of certain crimes a chance to seek psychological treatment. It requires the court to find that the individual’s mental illness “played a significant role” in the commission of the crime, and that a mental health expert render an opinion on the person’s response to psychological care. According to the 2018 legislation, those charged with murder, manslaughter and rape are not eligible for mental health diversion.
Diversion programs can be inpatient or outpatient, although Farca’s attorneys requested an outpatient program.
“The judge has to structure it,” said David Silldorf, a Jewish criminal defense attorney in San Diego who has practiced criminal law for 15 years.
He said he has seen the successful implementation of the program in which the individual receives treatment and medication, undergoes therapy and passes a “battery of tests” to determine that they are no longer a danger to themselves or for the others.
“A lot of times we do worse by putting people in jail,” he said.
“What no judge wants,” Silldorf added, “is to put someone who has a propensity for violence into a mental health diversion and then commit a serious violent crime.”
A judge will set “landmarks”, he said, requiring the person to return to court for regular check-ups and produce medical records to prove they are undergoing the required treatment. The judge can revoke the arrangement if the person does not comply.
In some cases, prosecutors and defense attorneys agree on mental health diversion programs, Silldorf said. In this case, the district attorney’s office strongly opposes it.
“Based on his criminality and the threat to community safety, the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office strongly opposes Farca’s request for release to any outpatient program,” read a statement sent by email by Bobbi Mauler, Executive Assistant to District Attorney Diana Becton. “Having been convicted of unlawful possession of assault weapons, criminal threats and a hate crime, Farca could be sentenced to state prison for a maximum of 9 years and 8 months.”
The lead prosecutor in the case is Amber White, who described Farca as “a grave danger to members of the Jewish faith.” The discretion ultimately rests with the judge.
Although Farca was found fit to stand trial, his lawyers argued throughout the court proceedings that his mental illness – including diagnoses of autism and obsessive-compulsive disorder – influenced his behavior.
Farca sometimes behaved erratically in court, calling and talking out of turn, drawing reprimands from the judge. Court documents described him struggling to bathe regularly in jail and fighting. A psychologist testified at trial that he was verbally intelligent but severely limited in his social skills.
Farca failed to grasp the meaning of his remarks, his lawyers argued, when in June 2019 he posted on the Steam site, just weeks after the Poway Chabad attack, a mass shooting targeting Jews : ” What do you think about me ? do what John Earnest tried to do, but with a Nazi uniform, an unregistered, illegally converted “machine gun” and broadcasting it live with Nazi music? »
“I currently own an AR15,” he wrote in the post, describing how to convert it to “M16.”
Farca showed a keen interest in weapons and firearms. Police found a semi-automatic rifle, large capacity rifle magazines, ammunition and used rifle targets in his home.
As a convicted felon, he is prohibited from owning a firearm, and Farca remains on probation following a separate federal conviction in 2020. He is incarcerated in Martinez Detention Center.
A hearing on the diversion petition is scheduled for February 28.