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Chesterfield man charged with hate crime had parents worried

Posted at 12:19 PM, May 11, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-11 12:20:28-04

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- The attorney representing the man accused of a hate crime in Chesterfield County said his client was paranoid and delusional.

Matthew Ellis, 27, was charged with a hate crime, two counts of assault and battery on a police officer, abduction, and attempted breaking and entering following a violent May 3 incident on East Hundred Road in which he attacked a woman because she was black, police said.

In court Thursday, attorney Todd Ritter filed a competency motion and a sanity motion that asked Ellis get a psychiatric examination.

"Competency relates to right now. Is he able to understand the nature of the proceedings and go to trial and assist in his defense? Sanity is related to the time of the offense and what was his mental condition and the time of his offense," CBS 6 legal analyst Todd Stone said.

Chesterfield Police said Ellis pulled up next to the woman on Rivers Bend Boulevard in Chester, and started to shout at her from his vehicle.

After she turned onto East Hundred Road, police said Ellis crashed into the back of her car, opened up her door, and pulled her out of the vehicle.

“He was just yanking her by the feet. She was screaming 'help me,'" witness Megan Grubb explained.

Two men who saw what was happening tried to restrain Ellis and the woman broke free.

"You had people that kept driving, then you had these two gentlemen who stopped and I’m grateful," witness Arlenie Medina said.

The woman ran into a nearby law firm where the employees locked the door.

Investigators said Ellis then tried to get into the building, but was restrained until police arrived.

"Within seconds, he was trying to tackle the door and was shouting racist derogatory things at both of us. It was very frightening,” Medina said.

While he was being arrested, Ellis spit on officers, according to police.

"If a psychologist finds that he was insane at the time of the offense then he can be found not guilty by reason of insanity," Stone said.

Ellis' attorney said in the weeks and days leading up to the attack, Ellis' parents asked their son to get psychiatric help.

The attorney said on the day of the incident, Ellis' parents requested Chesterfield Police conduct a wellness check on their son. At that point, Ellis had already been arrested.

"The idea behind the criminal laws is when people are in a state of mind because of a mental defect or disease that they don't understand the nature consequences of their actions, don't understand right from wrong, then they don't have mental capacity to commit the offense and be found guilty of the offense," Stone said.

In the competency motion for a psychiatric exam, Ritter said Ellis was delusional when they met at the jail.

He said Ellis claimed the attorney was an impostor and part of a conspiracy against him. The defense argued Ellis lacked the capacity to stand trial.

Ellis was working for the federal government at the time of the incident, according to court documents.

He is scheduled for a hearing in Chesterfield District Court on June 5.

Witnesses can send news tips and photos here.