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Jack Sisson's TBI Blog

A hug is duct tape for the soul.

How do we feel about this? How much responsibility should be placed on the shoulders of brain-injured defendants? Is it right to send persons with I.Q.s of 70 +/- to prison? If not, what should we do when they commit crimes? Do you think our criminal justice system is ass-backwards when it comes to sentencing the brain-injured and the mentally ill? And, perhaps most important of all, do you see a realistic chance of changing the way we deal with mentally ill and/orbrain-injured defendants in the near future?
There were no winners in the courtroom when Anthony Martin Ramos was sentenced Friday to four years in prison for robbing and terrorizing a 16-year-old autistic boy in St. Paul.

Ramos, 25, sobbed as he apologized to the boy and his family, but he begged for help - instead of prison - for himself.

"I didn't want to hurt anybody," said Ramos, who suffered a traumatic brain injury at age 13 when an adult gave him methamphetamine and he overdosed.

His attorney, Marcus Almon, asked the judge for probation instead of prison time.

Ramos was the "ringleader" of five people, including two juveniles, who attacked the boy Dec. 23. They stalked him at a Cub Foods store in Sun Ray Shopping Center. One person asked him if he wanted to "hang out," and the group lured him to a deserted space near Conway Recreation Center.

Once there, they pushed him into the snow, handcuffed him, beat him, robbed him and shot him in the face with a BB gun.

Ramos pleaded guilty April 5 to first-degree aggravated robbery and kidnapping.

Ramsey County District Judge Salvador Rosas ordered him to serve four years in prison, saying, "I wish there was a place I could send you that would keep you safe, that would keep our community safe, and that would help you."

In a written motion to the court, Almon said Ramos has an IQ of 74, cannot care for himself and has been in and out of treatment facilities since he suffered the brain injury.

He was civilly committed and lived in a foster home that specialized in patients with traumatic brain injuries until August 2010.

The commitment period ended. The attack on the autistic boy happened just a few months later.

Almon said he respected the judge's decision.

"Unfortunately, we had a case of the mentally ill versus the mentally ill," Almon said. "Until we figure this out, we're just going to be warehousing people with mental illness in prisons."

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