In the last five years, 30-year-old Alandes Augustin has been charged with a bevy of crimes, from bank and store robberies to domestic assaults. He is also severely mentally ill. Many of his charges were put on hold or outright dismissed after judges found him mentally incompetent to stand trial.
Then in March 2020 prosecutors charged Augustin with beating his girlfriend and stabbing a man in the chest several times all on the same night. After being found incompetent to stand trial, a judge ordered the Department of Human Services to treat Augustin’s mental illness.
But DHS would not hold on to Augustin for long, releasing him five months later based on a policy the state agency announced in 2018, records show.
Citing a shortage of hospital beds, DHS said it would release mentally ill patients back to the community when the agency deemed that they no longer needed hospital care – even if they still were not competent to stand trial.
DHS says such releases – called provisional discharges – are done safely.
“If a person is not able to go back to jail and they’re not able to be maintained safely in the community then we don’t provisionally discharge them,” said DHS Chief Medical Director Dr. Kylee Stevens. “It’s as simple as that.”
Augustin’s case and a host of others show otherwise.
Chapter 1: From beatings, to rape, to murder
About six months after DHS provisionally discharged Augustin from a secure treatment facility, police were called to a St. Paul apartment building where they found him once again stabbing a man, according to the criminal charges.
Augustin is far from the only suspect provisionally discharged by DHS who has gone on to cause more harm to the public. A KARE 11 investigation has identified beatings, stabbings, sexual assaults, and murders by patients who were released who were still incompetent.
DHS says it has provisionally discharged 665 defendants back to the community since 2018, though won’t reveal their names citing patient confidentiality. The agency says it does not know how many have been discharged while still incompetent to stand trial.
What’s more, when KARE 11 asked Dr. Stevens whether DHS tracks how many patients provisionally discharged under the new policy have committed new crimes, she replied: “We have no way of tracking that information.”
So, KARE 11 attempted to do what no one else has: Identify how many provisionally discharged defendants have gone on to be charged with new crimes.
Even with limited access to court records, KARE 11 identified 58 such cases so far.
Some of those released were later charged with minor crimes such as trespassing, public urination or sleeping on public transit, suggesting they live in extreme poverty or are homeless.
Others are far more serious.
They illustrate how a lack of treatment and supervision can result in a revolving door in which defendants are repeatedly found incompetent to stand trial, but are considered well enough to be released into the community – where they commit new crimes.
Some of those cases:
- A Ramsey County judge committed Demone Ivory, 38, to DHS for treatment in March 2018 after he was found incompetent to stand trial for charges that he violated a no contact order.
From there, Ivory began a cycle that would see DHS and the courts release him into the community, only to be charged with new crimes and sent back to DHS.
His most recent criminal charge came after DHS provisionally discharged him on August 19. Two weeks later, prosecutors say video shows Ivory fleeing from a St. Paul cop, jumping into the back of a pickup truck and punching the officer in the head as the truck drags the policeman down the street.
- Emmanuel Brown, 31, was found incompetent in February 2020 after being charged with numerous crimes, including burglary and assault.
After a judge committed Brown to DHS in March 2020, he was restored to competency, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to time served and probation.
But Brown was quickly in trouble again. In January 2021 he was charged with Domestic Assault, found incompetent to stand trial and committed to DHS again. He was provisionally discharged in April even though he was still not competent to stand trial.
Two months later, staff at a St. Paul homeless shelter called 911 after seeing a woman in a courtyard screaming with a man on top of her. The woman told police she was sitting in the courtyard when a man she had never met before – Brown – attacked and sexually assaulted her, according to the criminal complaint.
The charges say that Brown told police that he was “having sex with his ‘wife’” and that “family members can’t press charges against him for having sex with him.”
Once again, he was found incompetent to stand trial and sent back to DHS.
Then there’s Terrion Sherman, found incompetent to stand trial for aggravated robbery and assault charges, then committed to the St. Peter State Security Hospital in October 2018.
Although he was still not competent to stand trial, DHS provisionally discharged him to a Fridley group home in May 2019, where records show he missed taking medications 76 times in just eight months.
Despite reports from the group home that he repeatedly failed to follow his treatment plan, KARE 11 documented how his provisional discharge was never revoked.
Free to come and go from the group home, in February 2020 Sherman was charged with brutally murdering his girlfriend, Abigail Simpson, in an apparent psychotic episode.
“Oftentimes there isn’t real monitoring for these individuals who are provisionally discharged and that’s what puts the public in danger,” said Brandon Vaughn, an attorney representing Simpson’s family in a potential lawsuit.
“If we as society have made a policy decision that we’re going to do it this way, we need to know what the consequences of that are,” said retired Senior Judge Kathryn Messerich. “And we need to do better.”
Chapter 2: 'Very much a problem'
Prior to 2018, Minnesota already had one type of gap case – where mentally incompetent defendants are not ordered to DHS for treatment. Instead, the charges are often dismissed, and the defendants released back into the community.
Some of those defendants – including Gregory Ulrich – went on to commit additional crimes. Records show Ulrich called 911 to admit he was responsible for the mass shooting at a Buffalo medical clinic earlier this year. He is awaiting trial on first degree murder charges.
DHS’s 2018 policy change created another type of gap case. The agency decided to provisionally discharge defendants committed as mentally ill if doctors decided they no longer need hospital care. They are released even if they still are not competent to stand trial.
That puts mentally ill defendants in legal limbo. If they are not competent to stand trial, they cannot be held in jail indefinitely where there’s no treatment, Judge Messerich explained.
As a result, they’re often just released into the community. “There’s not a lot you can do,” she said.
“It’s very much a problem,” Ramsey County Chief Public Defender Jim Fleming told KARE 11.
Fleming says it’s no secret that people are falling through the gaps. “Everybody knows about them who are working in the system. We all know about them. The prosecutors know, the defense attorneys know, the judges know.”
But DHS officials argue their policy change is not to blame.
“Do things happen sometimes when people are on provisional discharge? Certainly. I don’t – and I can’t – tie that to any change that we made in our process,” Dr. Stevens said.
Chapter 3: Charged, committed, discharged, charged again
Before DHS provisionally discharged him in 2020, Alandes Augustin had already been charged with numerous thefts, twice with domestic assault, punching a jail guard and robbing a downtown Minneapolis bank.
Then on March 16, he beat his girlfriend, according to video and police records.
Records indicate his rampage continued.
Augustin went to a nearby room and knocked on the door. When the man inside opened, Augustin allegedly pushed his way in and stabbed the man repeatedly in the chest and arms, according to surveillance video described in the criminal charge and police report.
He was found incompetent to stand trial and committed to DHS in April 2020. But the agency provisionally discharged him in September.
Augustin would end up living with a friend at low-income apartment building in St. Paul, where in February police reports say the two got into an argument over a missing phone.
Augustin grabbed a kitchen knife and stabbed his friend in the head, chest and stomach, according to the criminal complaint and police records.
A judge once again found Augustin incompetent to stand trial. He was ruled mentally ill and sent back to DHS for treatment.
Three months later, in July 2021, records show DHS again provisionally discharged him to a residential treatment facility.
When KARE 11 tried to speak with him, we were told he no longer lived there.