Town Square

Post a New Topic

Paly grad acquitted of burglary charges

Original post made on Apr 24, 2013

A Palo Alto man who suffers from schizophrenia was acquitted of residential burglary on Tuesday, April 23, but he still faces up to 18 months in jail after being convicted of attempted vehicle theft, Cindy Hendrickson, Santa Clara County supervising deputy district attorney said.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, April 24, 2013, 11:55 AM

Comments (27)

Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 24, 2013 at 12:17 pm

Hmm, so schizophrenics can engage in odd behavior that could include breaking into your house and stealing your stuff. Not guilty!


Posted by Joe, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 24, 2013 at 12:34 pm

Another example of justice under Jeff Rosen. The article dosen't specify if this fellow was declared "innocent" by a judge, or a jury trial--or if he even got to trial. Still, the idea that someone can claim to be "schizophrenic" (whatever that means) .. and then can go into people's houses and steal their possessions without consequences is not something that people in this community should feel that they are well represented by their DA, or the Court system.

And if this fellow can get off from actually breaking-and-entering, why shouldn't he get off for breaking into a car that he was not able to steal?

All-in-all, seems like some criminals will be looking to use this defense as a get-out-of-jail pass in the future.


Posted by Carrie, a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 24, 2013 at 12:48 pm

Batten down the hatches folks they are on the prowl now!


Posted by treatment, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 24, 2013 at 1:35 pm

He needs treatment, but not excuses - this doesn't excuse his actions.Had he watched that house and seen someone put a house key under the doormat?


Posted by treatment, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 24, 2013 at 1:37 pm

p.s. instruct your housekeeper (how luxurious!) to phone 911 in future in such a situation, otherwise the guy might get away.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Apr 24, 2013 at 2:06 pm

Joe - what makes you think he only claimed to be schizophrenic? Not only does his age fit w/the onset, so does his behavior. It's a terrible & terrifying disease which affects the sufferer, their loved ones & sometimes the public. Their behavior can be trying, annoying & even dangerous. The lack of info in this article doesn't mean that he self-diagnosed to excuse his behavior. Most likely, medical & mental health professionals have been involved. I've had some very weird interactions w/some schizophrenics & it can be scary, but they're not faking it, nor, in many cases, could they be considered responsible for their behavior. I don't mean to sound preachy, it's that I think the lack of info here is what's at work.


Posted by Have Some Compasion, ItCcould be Your Kid, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 24, 2013 at 3:29 pm

It is really sad that this happened to this boy and his mother. People who are talking without really knowing how sick the boy is have no idea of what they are saying. No, he did not use the excuse to get excused from his actions to the contrary just like all other person with schizophrenia he claims that he is not sick, but he had been hospitalized before and the he was examined again again by other doctor. Mental illness is something that if it does not get treated you can end up dead by suicide, kill by the police or end up in Jail. I hope this does not happen to any other young person. Hope we the community help this young man to start a new life and get treatment, help him get back on this feet, and become a productive member to society. Yes, he is a great soccer player, and he did dances for young children along with this mother. He was a very good man, and he still is if we take away the mental illnesses.


Posted by Relative of a schizo, a resident of Greater Miranda
on Apr 24, 2013 at 4:04 pm

I know first hand that if a schizophrenic person faithfully takes his or her medication, he or she will be fully cognizant of right and wrong. However, without medication in their bloodstream, they are I pulsive and delusional.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 24, 2013 at 5:10 pm

I am amazed (and happy) that Axel was acquitted. The public defender did a good job putting on evidence of his illness. The evidence showed that he really had no idea where he was or what he was doing. This is one of our own community who has been struck with a terrible, terrible illness. He deserves medical care not prison or jail. The mental health system in this state is just horribly broken.

It is really surprising to me that more in the community do not support him or his family. This is a Paly graduate. He had a pair of cufflinks, not the man's computer or television or cash or whatever else could have been taken. Cufflinks. Can we show compassion for this boy and his mom, who are both Palo Altans?

Axel, I hope you get the help you need and that you are able to recover. God bless you and your family.


Posted by Joe, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 24, 2013 at 5:19 pm

> I know first hand that if a schizophrenic person faithfully
> takes his or her medication, he or she will be fully cognizant
> of right and wrong.

Let's assume for the moment that this statement is mostly true. Why would anyone with this condition (schizophrenia is not a disease) not take their medicine? And if they don't--and they subsequently get into trouble, such as breaking and entering, stealing, and possibly driving a car irresponsibly so that one, or more, people are kiiled? Shouldn't the failure of that person to take his/her medicine be considered a crime also?

> He had a pair of cufflinks, not the man's computer or
> television or cash or whatever else could have been take

Given that posters supporting this young man's action make him out to be delusional--what's to have kept him from stealing more property, or possibly setting the house he broke into on fire?

Sorry .. but this fellow does not sound sane, and he should not have gotten off. There is nothing in this experience, so far, that makes the "community" believe that this fellow understands what he did, is sorry, and has any intentions of taking his medicine. He certainly should not be able to drive. The DMV should be notified of this fellow's condition. Had he been convicted, they no doubt would have been informed. But since he was not convicted--what's the likelihood that his records will flaged?


Posted by Resident, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 24, 2013 at 5:35 pm

"this fellow does not sound sane, and he should not have gotten off."

These two ideas are in conflict with each other. Yes he does not sound sane. That insanity is a disease. And it means he could not form the requisite criminal intent for conviction.

Axel does not even have a drivers' license. He does not drive. He was not trying to steal the car, or drive it. He was just sitting in it. As far as we know he thought he was on a rocket ship to the moon. Why are so many people so unwilling to treat mental illness like any other illness?


Posted by Have Some Compasion, It Ccould be Your Kid, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 24, 2013 at 5:55 pm

I do have people with mental illness in my family, and number one problem is that they do not want to take the medication because they do not want to believe that they are mentally ill. They think that what they are seeing in their minds is real and will not believe otherwise. Both of my relatives have pretended to take their medication, but later they spat it out. The same thing happens in the hospitals other patients spit their medication. Once you somehow get the medication in their system the patient gets better, but to get there is very difficult.


Posted by Joe, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 24, 2013 at 6:10 pm

> As far as we know he thought he was on a rocket ship to the moon.

And you know this, how?

> Why are so many people so unwilling to treat mental
> illness like any other illness?

Most illnesses are caused by the invasion of the body by agents that attack various body parts--such as microbial, or viral, infections. These parasites, or infections, can be identified, and, in most cased, cured with various medicines.

People who are actually "ill" generally want to get better, recognize tthat they are sick, cooperate with their primary care providers, and generally are cured of their illness.

How many mental illnesses are caused by external elements? OK, syphillis, and rabies, are two examples--but people who have contracted these illnesses often show physical conditions, and both of tthese diseases are fatal. Mental illness is more likely a cohdition of the biochemical engine, and not caused by a virus, or other external infection.

> I do have people with mental illness in my family,
> and number one problem is that they do not want to
> take the medication

And here you have the crux of the problem. How to get these folks to take their medicine, and at least move to a "stabilized" zone of behavior.


Posted by Excuse me?, a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Apr 24, 2013 at 8:32 pm

Let me get this straight. This guy is so disabled he didn't know he committed a burglary. Let's elevate the crime to raping a young girl who was at home while he was burglarizing it and he is still innocent? He's so disable, he was able to get out of bed, get dressed, probably event ate breakfast too, before deciding to burglarize a home. Thank God for lawyers. Unfortunately, when you live in poverty, you can't claim schizophrenia - you're off to jail. What a great judicial system we have.


Posted by Have Some Compasion, It Ccould be Your Kid, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 24, 2013 at 9:52 pm

Fist of all, he did not get dressed, he was out on pajamas, but mainly he did not rape a girl. Wow, you are throwing the first rock,only based on your wrong assumptions. I know for sure, you will not be part of the community who support him.


Posted by What is the cure?, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 24, 2013 at 11:03 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Bill, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 25, 2013 at 8:33 am

Why this headline? PALY had nothing to do with this!!


Posted by wally, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 25, 2013 at 10:40 am

Not everyone in Palo Alto is a lockstep liberal. He's going to break into the wrong house one day and it will be bad news for all concerned.


Posted by neighbor, a resident of another community
on Apr 25, 2013 at 10:47 am

Those of you who know the man say he's wonderful & needs support. I don't know him nor would I recognize him since there's no picture. I don't want him in my house or car. I have 18k gold cufflinks that cost more than laptops.

Not all people with that mental disorder are harmless. Some mentally disordered people refuse medications because they don't like the side effects. I know a few bi-polar people who stop meds because either they don't like the dry mouth effect. Some disordered people also prefer the more exciting mental states they reach when not medicated & consider life on meds "boring."

Alex's fans should speak with him & encourage him to take the meds.


Posted by You do know you live on the West Coast right?, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 25, 2013 at 11:14 am

Joe, the fact that you view mental illnesses as inherently different from somatic ones means you adhere to an antiquated model of disease called the biomedical model. This model was accurate in the early 1900s when diseases like tuberculosis and polio were the leading causes of illness and death. Bear in mind this is also the same time when people drove model-T Fords and formed temperance societies.

Today, however, we practice modern medicine and modern medicine has thankfully moved on to something called the biopsychosocial model, which accepts that diseases and other health conditions carry many components beyond basic pathogens. That means they include a host of mental and social factors, which result in diseases that are just as real as the stereotypical ones you can cure with a shot.

Furthermore people that are "actually ill" do not always seek treatment to get better. How many people attempt to go on living normally even though they are overweight or obese? Addicted to alcohol or tobacco? Afflicted by recurring common colds? These are all very real conditions that many people ignore. So what really makes a schizophrenic so different, especially when he may not even believe that he holds a real condition? Well you're probably thinking that none of these are even close to the realm of schizophrenia. And in that assertion, you would be correct.

Exactly because of that though, means we have to treat severe mental disorders like schizophrenia in a class of their own. Because schizophrenics hold a different sense of reality, we cannot hold them to the same standards and punishments that we hold the majority of society to. It would be like putting a 5th grader in a graduate student exam and then expelling him from the university when he fails. Well, what the hell did you expect, he never should have been held to that level of stringency in the first place. Similarly, we have to feel compassion for those with mental disorders and work with them to ameliorate their problems rather than punish them for an affliction that is entirely NO FAULT OF THEIR OWN. I am sure if you had a son with schizophrenia or a similar mental disorder you would not hold such antiquated and selfish views.

In no way did Axel act maliciously, he did not break in but rather used a key, he did not fight the officers but rather sat passively in a car, he did not vandalize the house but rather stole a pair of cufflinks when the average PA house has many more valuables. He was clearly confused and deserves our support not our condemnations. I went to school with Axel and saw first hand how beloved he was by his friends and the PALY community. The fact that such a bright mind with a great deal of potential was hamstrung with such a crippling affliction is a tragedy that deserves our understanding, respect, and the support of our community. A community that you and your close-minded, antiquated views are doing nothing to help build.

In the future Joe, please direct your criticisms against the real criminals of the world and not the unfortunate few who already have enough on their plate.


Posted by Abe Mitchell, a resident of Meadow Park
on Apr 25, 2013 at 11:44 am

On grounds of even medical excuses this does not justify anyone being exempt from prosecution. How unconvincing is our legal system?


Posted by Relative of a schizo, a resident of Greater Miranda
on Apr 25, 2013 at 12:03 pm

Many schizophrenic people have felt that after a long time on the medications, they are cured and do not need it any more. Of course this is erroneous, as schizophrenia is not curable, merely treatable.

If in fact Axel had gone off his meds, he could be in legal trouble simply for having gone off them. If he was properly medicated at the time of the crime, he is culpable for that crime. Roughly, if he was unmediated when he committed the crime, he is guilty only of being an unmediated schizophrenic, which is actually a crime in itself, but not of the crime committed while unmedicated.

I am knowledgeable about this because my schizophrenic nephew has been in similar situations before. His parents still have legal custody of him even though he is thirty years old.


Posted by been there, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 25, 2013 at 12:25 pm

Thank you "You do know ..." for taking the time and effort to write your wonderfully clear, intelligent, compassionate posting. I doubt it will change certain people's minds (esp. those with personality disorders just as disabling as schizophrenia), but it warms my heart.


Posted by John Jacobs, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 25, 2013 at 3:47 pm

"Anosognosia," or lack of insight into one's own illness, is very common amongst people with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder which is why it's difficult to maintain such folks on medication regimes. Also, all of the psychotropic meds have serious side effects which often lead to other physical illnesses such as tardive dyskinesia (involuntary repetitive tic-like movements) or diabetes due to rapid weight gain, so again, this often leads to medication non-compliance.

As a previous writer mentioned, our mental health system is seriously underfunded and in disarray, inexcusable in a first world country. Mental health patients are often released from "holds" within 72 hours, having received little help, and families, desperately seeking solutions, are left to their own devices to figure out what to do. We must demand more from our health system so that we may treat the mentally ill effectively and compassionately, while at the same time, protecting society from those rare sufferers who would do harm to others.

For any of you looking for support or for more information, you may contact your local NAMI (Nat'l Alliance on Mental Illness) chapter for a list of local support groups and resources. Their website is www.nami.org or in Santa Clara County, it's www.namisantaclara.org. (NAMI's a terrific organization working to provide support for those with mental illness and their family members, while also lobbying our decision makers to do the right thing.)


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Apr 25, 2013 at 4:03 pm

Look, what happened terrified the housekeeper, I'm sure & the homeowner. They didn't know Axl was harmless. Thankfully, he was. The family was in the midst of dealing w/a terrible, debilitating disease that has no cure, no easy answers, no miracle cure. The legal folks involved did the right thing, imo. Does he belong in jail? I don't know - I only say that because I know a schizophrenic woman who finally got the help she needed while in jail - they found the right combo of meds for her. But that's not typical. How does a family keep their loved on & the community safe? It's a daily, exhausting issue. They have my empathy. I hope that Axl will be one of the lucky ones who takes meds & that the meds work for him. I hope never to read about him in the news again for something like this.


Posted by What is the cure for stupid because Joe needs it., a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 26, 2013 at 4:48 pm

Perhaps ""Anosognosia" is what Joe has. He appears to have a false belief that he makes any sense.


Posted by Longtime resident, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 2, 2013 at 10:36 am

Longtime resident is a registered user.

I find several things troubling with this case:
First was the police charges against Axel. It is ROUTINE to charge the maximum amount of charges against an individual in the hopes the police can charge something. He had taken a pair of cufflinks and a 9-volt battery-simply because he is attracted to things that are shiny or have "power". The same way you might pick a flower because it is pretty. Shall we convict you on a felony charge also?

Shall we also deny you bail and permit you to stay in jail for 6 months?
Because he is indigent and couldnt post bail, he spent almost six months in jail-even though not yet proved guilty. And no one has an issue with that? $5,000 may seem small for most Palo Altans, but for a mentally ill 20 year old, it is a self made jail sentence.
How come we provide funds for prisons and jails and not mental health? A person who is mentally ill is like a young child, shall we convict them also for taking a candy bar-or better yet just throw them in jail first and then figure it out?

The thing i have the biggest problem with is How our prosecutor is more interested in making Axel an "example" then real justice? As far as he was concerned he was more interested in getting a conviction with hearing the story. We pay his salary, I don't believe he is using his mandate wisely, going after a mentally ill person who can barely show intent to eat let alone burglarize.

In regards to showing "intent to steal"-Axel had freely given his name to all who asked, he had hung out inside the home and had conversed with the housekeeper, helping her clean the house. He had asked her if he could sit in the car and listen to music. Does that sound like a criminal? He does not drive nor has wanted to because "cars are scary to drive".

For your information, I have had my car burglarized,I understand how scary it is and how one wants to charge someone. But he is as much a victim as anyone else. I also find it incredible that the only way these days to get any help for a mentally ill person is through the jail system. (this is from a policeman I know) Why aren't more people troubled by this?


If you were a member and logged in you could track comments from this story.

To post your comment, please click here to login

Remember me?
Forgot Password?
or register. This topic is only for those who have signed up to participate by providing their email address and establishing a screen name.

Handmade truffle shop now open in downtown Palo Alto
By Elena Kadvany | 3 comments | 2,329 views

Why is doing nothing so difficult?
By Sally Torbey | 7 comments | 1,066 views

Breastfeeding Tips
By Jessica T | 4 comments | 878 views

Weekly Update
By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 727 views

Call it a novel: Dirty Love by Andre Dubus III
By Nick Taylor | 1 comment | 253 views