When Brian Silas Jones appeared for his initial hearing before Judge William Sleva Tuesday afternoon, he said he understood the charges against him: sexual battery and criminal confinement, both felonies, for allegedly tackling a 20-year-old Indiana University student to the ground the evening of Nov. 10, lying on top of her and attempting an assault.
Bystanders in the area intervened to help the woman and called police when they witnessed the attack in Dunn’s Woods.
In court that day, Jones was handcuffed and agitated, grinning inappropriately, eyes darting around the room. The 24-year-old transient man nodded and said “yeah” when the judge asked if he understood the charges against him. But Jones hadn’t filled out required paperwork and seemed disconnected from what was going on.
Sleva appointed the public defender’s office as legal counsel. A lawyer from the office quietly told the judge “there may be some competence issues.” Not guilty pleas were entered on Jones’s behalf, and he was escorted back to jail, held on $30,000 surety and $500 cash bond.
The next day, the court canceled a hearing for Jones, which was to be in two weeks, and ordered a psychiatric evalution. The new court date is Jan. 3.
Man accused of similar attack earlier this year
Jones went through the same process this summer when he was arrested in connection to a similar sexual assault near campus. In that case, the charges were dismissed on Oct. 31, after psychiatric reports indicated Jones was incompetent to stand trial and the victim moved away.
In that case, a college-age couple driving in the vicinity of Seventh Street and Indiana Avenue around 11 p.m. June 27 stopped and got out after hearing what they described as “a life-threatening scream” and someone shouting “get off me.” They scared off the assailant, who fled as the victim ran toward the couple. They took her to the police station to report what had happened, and Jones was soon arrested at Fourth and Dunn streets.
The 29-year-old woman said Jones followed her from Seminary Park and then tackled her to the ground, held her down and tried to put his hands into her shorts before the two passersby intervened.
Jones was charged then with the same two felonies he faces now, sexual battery and confinement, and jailed on $4,000 bond.
Reluctance to testify, mental incompetence and move for dismissal
Monroe County Prosecutor Erika Oliphant said the accused’s mental health issues contributed to the dismissal, but the victim’s reluctance to testify was the main reason.
“The alleged victim did not wish to pursue the case and would not maintain communication with the state during the pendency of the case, and she ultimately moved out of state,” Oliphant explained in an email. “Mr. Jones was then found incompetent to stand trial. Considering the totality of the circumstances, dismissal seemed like the most prudent course of action at the time.”
The law requires two experts to agree that a defendant is mentally incompetent before a ruling is issued. The person would then receive treatment until they were able to understand the charges, and the case would proceed.
But in this instance, because the charges were dismissed, the incompetency ruling was moot.
“If the case were still pending, the defendant would have to be restored to competency through intensive mental health treatment,” Oliphant said. “However, if a case is dismissed, there is no statutory requirement or mandate that he participate in mental health treatment.”
Other felony charges also dismissed
Jones has been charged with other felonies. In 2018, charges from three cases the previous year that included intimidation with a deadly weapon and battery with injury were dismissed because Jones was being treated for mental illness “and is residing periodically in an inpatient facility or with his mother in Illinois,” the dismissal order reads.
In 2019, the prosecutor’s office dismissed charges of resisting arrest using a weapon because of the challenges Jones faces.
“It was clear that Mr. Jones was experiencing mental health issues that contributed to his criminal activity,” Oliphant said. “He was committed to a facility for mental health treatment, so the state dismissed the criminal case.”
Because mental health records are confidential, Oliphant could not comment on them, nor are they available for review to see how long and what kind of treatment Jones received and when and why he was released.
Contact H-T reporter Laura Lane at email@example.com or 812-318-5967.
This article originally appeared on The Herald-Times: Dunn’s Woods accused attacker has history of mental health challenges