No jail for Indian-origin doctor who drove Tesla off cliff in US with family in it

An Indian-origin California-based radiologist who intentionally drove his Tesla car off a 330-foot cliff with his family inside it will not stand trial. Dharmesh Patel — a father of two children, 4 and 7 — will be reunited with his family as the court understood it was one of his mental health episodes.

A court granted 42-year-old Patel a mental health diversion because of evidence that he has major depressive disorder, NBC News quoted the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office as saying.

On January 2, 2023, the Indian-origin radiologist drove his car off the Pacific Coast Highway and over a 330-foot cliff at Devil’s Slide in San Mateo County. His wife and two children were in the car. All the four in the car survived the crash.

In hospital, Patel’s family allegedly told paramedics that “he tried to kill us”, according to a Daily Mail report, but his wife later begged authorities to let her husband come home.

His wife, Neha Patel, pleaded with prosecutors to drop the attempted murder charges against Dharmesh.

Neha Patel’s emotional testimony in court highlighted the pain the family was enduring. She told the court that their young son was asking her, “When’s Daddy coming home?”

Charged with three counts of attempted murder, Dharmesh Patel was lodged in a jail.

Patel pleaded not guilty to three counts of attempted murder.

The court will determine the details of Patel’s release on July 1.


San Mateo Superior Court Judge Susan Jakubowski determined that Patel qualified for mental health diversion due to his condition, stating that the proposed treatment plan would effectively address his needs, according to a news release from the district attorney’s office.

“Weighing all factors, the court determined the defendant was suitable and granted the defence request for mental health diversion,” the release said, reported the NBC news.

Patel must remain in jail for several more weeks before being released to live with his parents in Belmont.

He will be under house arrest for two months, monitored by an ankle bracelet, and must attend weekly court sessions for progress reports. He is also banned from driving, possessing weapons, drinking alcohol, and taking drugs.

Psychologists testified that Patel’s mental health deteriorated rapidly before the crash, culminating in a psychotic episode.

Patel feared his children would be sex-trafficked and was overwhelmed by paranoia about various global issues. Expert witness Dr. Mark Patterson explained that Patel’s delusional thinking led him to believe he was protecting his family, reported the Daily Mail.

“It was paranoid and kind of delusional thinking that he acted on at the time to protect his family from a worse fate,” Patterson said. “He was concerned that his children were at risk of being kidnapped, possibly for sexual molestation… There were concerns surrounding the explosion of fentanyl in this country and the war in Ukraine.”

Patel’s wife, Neha, pleaded for his release, emphasising that the family needed him. “We need him in our life,” she said. “We’re not a family without him.” She promised to seek help if necessary and assured the court that things would be different upon his return.

Patel’s attorney, Joshua Bentley, argued that Patel had no criminal history and was a loving family man who experienced a sudden mental health crisis.

“This was not him. This was a 100% mental health episode,” Bentley said, noting that Patel has been in remission for over a year, reported The Daily Mail.

Prosecutors, however, argued that Patel’s actions posed a significant risk to his family and the community.

Deputy District Attorney Dominique Davis highlighted the severity of the charges and the potential danger of releasing Patel.

“As his wife and two children were plunging from that cliff, what is most frightening is that nobody saw this coming,” Davis said.

The court heard that Patel had initially claimed the crash was due to a flat tyre but later discussed his mental health issues with defence doctors.

Prosecutors presented their own expert, who diagnosed Patel with a more severe schizoaffective disorder, treatable with medication.

Despite the prosecution’s concerns, the judge ruled in favour of mental health diversion, emphasising the importance of Patel receiving treatment.

Patel’s case will continue to be monitored, with weekly updates provided to the court.

Patel will face court on July 1 to finalise the details of his release and treatment plan.

Published By:

Girish Kumar Anshul

Published On:

Jun 26, 2024

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