Soldier who took military vehicle on Richmond joyride found not guilty by reason of insanity

Posted at 11:34 AM, Aug 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-19 23:28:14-04

NOTTOWAY COUNTY, Va. -- Former Virginia National Guardsman Joshua Yabut was found not guilty by reason of insanity Monday in Nottoway County court.

Yabut, 30, made national headlines in June 2018, when investigators said he took an armored personnel carrier from Fort Pickett in Blackstone and drove it more than 60 miles to Richmond, with multiple police officers in pursuit.

The chase came to an end in the middle of Broad Street, near City Hall, where Yabut climbed out of the vehicle and was taken into custody. He was charged with felony unauthorized use of a motor vehicle for that incident.

Austin explained what she believes occurred during the June 2018 incident.

"He was laboring under a mental illness that had him believing things that weren't based in reality,” Austin said.

Nottoway Commonwealth's Attorney Leanne Watrous says right after the incident, Yabut was evaluated.

"The psychologists performing the evaluations reached the same conclusion that Yabut was not sane at the time of the offense," she said.

Four months later, investigators said Yabut violated the conditions of his bond by taking an unauthorized flight out of the country and researching bomb-making. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity for that incident as well.

"He did not have the mental capacity to understand the wrongfulness of his actions at the time that he took them," Yabut's attorney Amy Austin said outside of court. "[He] will be evaluated at Central State Hospital to determine what the extent of his mental illness is at this time and whether he's a danger to himself or the community."

The evaluation is expected to be completed over the next 45 days.

Dr. Martin Buxton from the Buxton Institute says he did not evaluate Yabut, but he's seen similar patients.

"He wasn't cognitively impaired,” Buxton said. “In other words he could do five and five equals ten, knew how to start a car, drive a complicated vehicle, but he could still have thought the Martians were invading Colonial Heights and taking over the offices. I don't know what his specific delusion was."

Yabut will undergo treatment at Central State for at least 45 days.

"The pressure is on the psychiatric system to be extremely cautious about letting someone go that would be an extreme danger to himself or others," said Buxton.

Legal expert Todd Stone believes Monday's verdict will follow Yabut to the city of Richmond in September where he faces eluding felonies. Stone says that he expects a similar outcome.

"We would assume that if experts believe he was insane at the time of offenses in Nottoway, then they also probably believe he was not sane in Richmond,” said Stone. “It was a very short time after that where he was charged there."

His attorney is hoping those charges resolved in a manner similar to what happened in Nottoway County Monday morning.

Yabut’s military status will be handled after all civilian court charges have been completed.



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