A Supervised Life

A Grand Valley man that entered guilty but mentally ill pleas to felony charges of arson and criminal trespass is eligible for immediate parole from the Warren County Jail – with restrictions and supervision for what will likely be the rest of his life.

James Edward Slagter set fires in three residences in Southwest Township on Aug. 30 of last year. He is suffering from psychotic affective and bipolar disorders, according to psychological evaluations.

Defense attorney Chad Vilushis asked Judge Gregory Hammond on Friday to enter Dr. Belinda Kelly’s psychiatric evaluation of Slagter as a part of the record, to which Hammond agreed.

Vilushis said, “When I first started in the legal profession, I thought cases were always in black and white… this case is a perfect example of gray (areas).”

He noted that Slagter had no prior record, is a Vietnam veteran, and suffers from mental health issues, as documented by Dr. Kelly’s evaluation.

He asked the judge to sentence Slagter to a place where his mental health will not deteriorate as an alternative to “warehousing him in jail for the rest of his life. He is not a lost cause,” he said.

Hammond acknowledged that the criminal charges were a result of a psychotic break and that letters from his neighbors said that he was an ideal neighbor, helping out when he could and refusing any remuneration. He also said that Slagter’s only prior involvement with the legal system was a speeding ticket 20 years ago, and at age 67 he has been a law-abiding adult for nearly a half-century.

He added that Dr. Kelly said that as long as he was on his medications and not drinking alcohol, he was harmless to society, and that she recommended the least restrictive outpatient therapy and the most intensive and longest supervision.

Hammond then sentenced him to 169 days to two years, less one day with credit for time served, 18 years less one day of probation which is the maximum under mitigated sentence guidelines and to reside in a supervised facility with an intensive case management program. Since Slagter has already served virtually all of the minimum sentence, he could qualify for release.

He also ordered Slagter to receive injections of psychotropic medicines and abstain from any alcohol or drug use and wear a SCRAM (Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitoring) device and have intensive face-to-face supervision with Adult Probation.

Slagter is to have no contact with victims and may not return to the Grand Valley area without written permission from his probation supervisor. Hammond told him, “Any divergence from the plan will bring you back to court.”

He was sentenced to pay $1,625 in fines and fees and $162,275.06 in restitution.