Stephen Patrick Medlock at the time of his March 2018 arrest for suspicion of starting the Silver Fire in 2013. Photo courtesy Riverside County Sheriff’s Department

On Aug. 31, Stephen Patrick Medlock, 56, who was arrested and charged with starting the 2013 Silver Fire that burned more than 20,000 acres in Poppet Flats, Twin Pines and throughout Banning, and reportedly caused physical injuries to more than a dozen individuals, including firefighters, was court ordered to a Mental Health Court (MHC) hearing on motion of his defense attorney, Skip Feild.
According to a State of California website, MHC is a “collaborative” court that provides specific services and treatment to defendants dealing with mental illness. Mental Health Courts accept only defendants with demonstrable mental illnesses that can be connected to their illegal behaviors. Participation in MHC is voluntary, so a defendant must consent to involvement in the program.
Public Information Officer John Hall of the Riverside County District Attorney’s explained to the Town Crier: “Mental Health Court (MHC) is different than mental competency to stand trial. It is an alternative sentencing program that was created by the Superior Court.
“If a defendant is referred to MHC, the judge in MHC determines if that person is a good fit for the program and, if so, they are accepted into the program. If accepted, the defendant pleads guilty and is placed on probation. They then begin mental health treatment that is not less than a year. If they successfully complete the program, they can receive early termination of their probation. One of the criteria for acceptance is there must be some connection between the crime they are charged with committing and mental illness.”
Medlock’s hearing in Mental Health Court currently is set for Sep. 14. Should he not be accepted into the MHC program, his jury trial in Riverside County Superior Court currently is set for Sep. 29 in Department B101.