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Superior Court Declares Christian Lepore Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity

Attorney General Peter Kilmartin today commented on the decision by Rhode Island Superior Court Justice Brian P. Stern finding Christian Lepore (age 35), of Richmond, RI, not guilty by reason of insanity in the May 28, 2016 beating death of 62-year-old John O'Neil and the assault of several police officers and a State Police dog.

"Although there is no question that Christian Lepore is factually responsible for the horrific act, the Court has found the defendant not guilty by reason of insanity. While we respect this decision, we recognize that it brings no comfort or sense of justice to the O'Neil family. Our continued thoughts are with Mr. O'Neil's wife and family, who have endured great loss and heartbreak from the day the defendant came upon their yard to today's decision," said Attorney General Kilmartin.

The defense did not contest the facts that during the late afternoon of May 28, 2016, Christian Lepore physically assaulted and killed John O'Neil. The defense also did not contest that Lepore assaulted two West Greenwich Police officers and two Rhode Island State Police troopers, as well as a State Police dog, who were called to the scene at John Potter Road after a 911 phone call by Mr. O'Neil.

In the Court's decision, Justice Stern found that, by a fair preponderance of the evidence, the "Defendant's mental disability resulted in a substantial impairment of his capacity to the point where Defendant could not appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct or confirm his conduct to the requirements of the law."

The Court further found that, by a fair preponderance of the evidence, "there existed a sufficient relationship between the mental disability Defendant suffered and criminal conduct such that he cannot justly be held responsible for his actions…"

When a defendant is found not guilty by reason of insanity, legal mechanisms are in place to assure the public's safety. Although the criminal case has ended, commitment to the State hospital is required and ordered. The law requires that the court order a defendant adjudged not guilty by reason of insanity be committed to the custody of the state department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals (BHDDH) for the purpose of observation and examination to determine whether the person is dangerous.

Once committed, the director of BHDDH will, within 20 days, prepare and file with the court a report stating his/her opinion of whether, because of mental disability, the person's unsupervised presence in the community will create a likelihood of serious harm.

Once the required report is filed and with notice to the Attorney General and counsel, the court shall hold a hearing where the BHDDH Director's report shall be introduced. If, after hearing, the court finds the individual dangerous, then the court shall commit the individual to BHDDH for care and treatment as an inpatient in a public institution. The individual shall not be paroled, furloughed, placed on out-patient status or otherwise released, except upon petition to the court by the BHDDH Director and an order of the court.

Rhode Island State Police Lt. Detective Eric Yelle led the investigation. Assistant Attorney General Jay Sullivan and Special Assistant Attorney General John Perrotta prosecuted the case on behalf of the Office of Attorney General.

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