A Texas man was sentenced Friday to four years in prison by a San Mateo County Court for a week-long string of criminal activity in 2012, according to the District Attorney. Tyler McLaughlin, a 23-year-old resident of San Antonio, pleaded no contest to two robbery charges and one charge of vandalism stemming from a failed attempt to escape a state hospital. He was sentenced to four years in prison, of which he has already served 1,003 days with additional credit for good behavior.
The prosecutor and defense have both said he will likely be released later this year.
McLaughlin was extradited back to California to answer for two robberies and a car-burglary that all took place within a six day period in March of 2012. Friday’s sentencing came after nearly three years of delays due to two separate competency hearings, a stint in a state hospital, and eye-sight problems related to McLaughlin’s decision to act as his own lawyer, according to District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe.
“For our county, it’s really dragged on,” Wagstaffe said. After the court approved McLaughlin’s request to represent himself, he claimed to have problems with his eyesight that were complicating his legal defense, according to Wagstaffe. The court ordered the sheriff to get the defendant an eye exam in April of 2013, but that process became complicated. “He saw the eye doctor on April 29, 2013, but the defendant refused the eye glasses the doctor offered,” Wagstaffe said.
“June 13, they’re in court and the defendant says ‘They’re not getting me the eyewear I need therefore I want a sight interpreter who will read everything for me.'” After that, and for unrelated reasons, McLaughlin was found not to be competent to stand trial and sent to the Napa State Hospital for treatment, according to Wagstaffe. “… and that was when the escape occurred.” Wagstaffe said.
“They never got outside the building, though.” As a result of McLaughlins lack of competency, attorney Jeff Hayden was appointed to represent him. “I represented him initially, and became standby council when the court allowed him to act as his own attorney,” Hayden said. “When he was returned, and found to be competent, he was happy with me staying on.” Since McLaughlin had already served most of his likely sentence, and was not faring well in jail, last week Hayden moved to resolve his client’s case.
“There’s no question in my mind that he has some very serious psych issues that have been troubling him for a long time,” Hayden said. “It’s also quite likely that he was exaggerating some of his symptoms.” Hayden said that while he believes his client did in fact suffer from eye problems, but that McLaughlin may have also been exaggerating the extent of those problems. “As we speak today I truly believe that he perceives himself as being blind,” Hayden said. “I don’t think he actually is blind, but I don’t see him as so skilled as to fake it.” Hayden referred to the case as “very bizarre.” McLaughlin’s case has been continued to April 30 at 8:30 a.m., at which time restitution will be discussed.
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