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Editorial: State failed by releasing mentally ill ex-con

New York City officials announced at a news

New York City officials announced at a news conference on Wednesday, June 4, 2014, that Daniel St. Hubert had been arrested in connection with the fatal stabbing of Prince Joshua Avitto, 6, in Brooklyn on Sunday, June 1, 2014. Photo Credit: Agaton Strom

Daniel St. Hubert was turned loose on the streets of New York City, but the abject failure of the state's mental health and correctional systems means a situation like his could happen anywhere from Montauk to Buffalo. St. Hubert had a serious history of psychosis. He had a notorious taste for violence. But when he wrapped up his 5-year sentence at a prison in upstate Clinton, he was free to walk city streets so long as he met his parole officer regularly.

What St. Hubert needed was mental health care -- and in retrospect -- court-ordered involuntary confinement. What he got was a major bureaucratic shrug. Here's what happened after his May 23 release:

On June 1, St. Hubert entered an East New York public housing complex and viciously stabbed two small children inside an elevator, according to police. P.J. Avitto, 6, was killed, and his good friend Mikayla Capers, 7, was seriously injured.

On May 30, 18-year-old Tanaya Copeland was fatally stabbed while walking in Brooklyn. Five days later, a 53-year-old man was stabbed while sleeping in a Chelsea subway station. The NYPD is looking at St. Hubert in connection with both of those cases.

These horrors were not unpredictable. St. Hubert was in prison for trying to strangle his mom with an electrical cord. While imprisoned, he attacked a female correction officer. He had been treated with mandatory therapy for years behind bars. But by the time his sentence was finished, he had not been cited for violent behavior in more than a year, according to reports. So he was permitted to leave custody with no mental health safety net.

Officials could have moved to have him confined involuntarily in a psychiatric institution. Or they could have sought a court order for outpatient treatment under Kendra's Law. But they didn't. The state owes us a tough inquiry into what happened and why. St. Hubert was left untreated, and the public was left unprotected. Shameful.


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