SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. - Sitting in his yellow jumpsuit, before he even appeared in front of a judge Tuesday afternoon, Ryan Hithersay, 38, was crying.
Hithersay is charged with aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer after the Florida Highway Patrol says he purposely plowed into a trooper on I-4 yesterday afternoon. According to an arrest report filed in Seminole County court Tuesday afternoon, Hithersay admitted he swerved his car into the trooper's car because he didn't like law enforcement or the government.
However, at his first appearance Tuesday, his public defender, Larry Kowal, told the judge there is more to this story.
"There are some mental issues involved here," Kowal told the judge. "So what the police said he said, I haven't read, so I don't know and I don't know if he said that if he meant it or because he's half-nuts. But it appears there are mental issues that may have impacted not only what he said but what he did."
The director of a men's recovery center in Daytona Beach where Hithersay lives echoed that as well.
"He's not violent at all, he's harmless," said director Joe Paprocki. "I think he just had a mental break."
Paprocki says Hithersay has been at the recovery center for six years overcoming substance abuse and mental health issues, graduating from the program but staying there for structure.
"We have seen improvement with him but with any mental illness you have times of backsliding, you know?" Paprocki added.
He says Hithersay was allowed to drive and was fine on medication. Paprocki said he even spoke to Hithersay yesterday morning.
"He seemed fine," he said.
Just didn't know what happened yesterday afternoon.
"He hasn't been in any trouble in the four years that I've been here."
Now, Paprocki hopes the judge will let him come back home soon.
"What I'm hoping for that the court takes into consideration that mental illness is a disease. That's he's not a malicious man,
he's not a violent man at all," Paprocki added.
However, even with knowing about the mental health issues, the case alone, with what FHP says Hithersay admitted the judge ruled, shows he is a danger to the community. He denied any bond for Hithersay on Tuesday.
Hithersay's next court date is set for March 20.
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