“I don’t care what’s best for Mr. Bashir, I only care that the community is protected,” Clark warned the slight 32-year-old who hunched over the defense table. “Mr. Bashir, all you’ve got to do is mess up once and I guarantee you, you will be back in this court and you will not leave by the same door you’re using today.”
In the front row of the courtroom sat Peter Laboy, the former police officer who suffered a traumatic brain injury on Feb. 27, 2013, when he attempted to stop Bashir’s taxi. After multiple surgeries, Laboy survived, but he is unable to return to police work or ride his motorcycle, and his marriage fell apart.
Bashir had been stalking a young woman in Old Town with the intention of raping her, but when the shop owner where she worked told a police officer of the threat, Bashir took off in his cab. Laboy responded to a radio call for help and encountered Bashir near Lyles-Crouch Traditional Academy. He was shot in the head before he could completely dismount from his motorcycle. Bashir was caught several miles away, after crashing into another vehicle.
“The more restrictions, the better,” Laboy said after the hearing. “I’m concerned about my family, me, all the officers. I can’t really forget about that. . . . I cannot tell you that it’s fair. What happened to me, what happened to my family, I’m still going to treatment two times, three times a week, I still take medication to control my seizures. Yesterday, my doctor said . . . you’ve got to take it forever.”
After his arrest, Bashir told authorities that he was obeying voices in his head that told him to rape a woman and shoot a police officer.
He was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and substance abuse and has been treated at mental-health facilities. A series of psychiatrists, psychologists and mental-health workers testified Thursday that once Bashir was on antipsychotic medication, his symptoms disappeared. They said he took his medications on his own as scheduled, discussed his substance-abuse problems with staff and participated in all the programs suggested for him.
They said he violated the rules just once: Last November, Bashir was granted a day pass to attend a mosque with his family, but he instead went to a movie with a female friend, then lied about it when he was caught.
He had already been allowed to leave the hospital grounds for 48 hours without an escort, part of a graduated process that aims to get residents ready for release. The violation paused that privilege, and he was required to carry a cellphone so he could be tracked by location. They said there were no further incidents after that, and Bashir is now again allowed 48-hour passes.
There are 278 people in Virginia hospitals who have been found not guilty by reason of insanity, and 292 are on court-ordered conditional release plans, according to the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services.
Bashir’s attorney Emily Beckman noted that his release was sought not by her client, but by the hospital.
“I don’t think any adult would look at this plan and think of this as freedom,” she said. “There is a lot of supervision in it.”
After court, Alexandria Police Chief Michael Brown, who sat through the hearing with about a dozen other officers, some in “Laboy Strong” T-shirts, said his department “could have filled the room with gray [police uniform] shirts, but we didn’t in order to not intimidate the court.”
Alexandria Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Porter told reporters he was disappointed in the judge’s decision and argued, as he had in his closing statement, that Virginia ought to offer courts another option besides “guilty” or “not guilty by reason of insanity.” Twenty states now allow a judgment of guilty but mentally ill, which means a convicted person can get treatment and then serve a term in prison for the crime.
Rachel Weiner contributed to this report.