Houston News & Search
UPDATE, Wednesday, May 24
Misdemeanor assault charges were dropped against an 18-year-old mentally disabled man Wednesday, a day after the Houston Chronicle reported that a video appears to challenge allegations he choked a worker at his group home.
A notation in the court document says the case was dismissed for “insufficient evidence.”
REPORTED Tuesday, May 23
The family of an 18-year-old mentally disabled man is calling for dismissal of a misdemeanor assault charge against him after a video appears to challenge allegations he choked a worker at his group home.
Jordan Opperud, who has lived in the home for almost a year, has the mental capacity of an 8-year-old because of a brain disorder, temporal lobe sclerosis, according to his family and lawyer Mekisha Walker.
Walker set the case for trial as soon as possible—a bold move for a defense attorney—after she saw the video. A judge has already denied her request that the case be dismissed, and Opperud is set to appear in court Thursday on the case.
“The [prosecutors] can see that he’s the one who’s the victim and they don’t want to dismiss the case?” she asked. “This is just not justice.”
Opperud was arrested and jailed on April 25 after a worker at the group home called police and filed a complaint saying he had pushed her and choked her “extremely hard.”
Harris County Assistant District Attorney Napoleon Stewart said he could not discuss particulars because it is a pending case. But generally, he said, prosecutors try to ensure justice is done for the community, any victim and the defendant.
“Over the past few years our criminal justice system has made strides to better address defendants with mental health issues and these sensitive cases,” he said. “Yet, the criminal justice system is still under-equipped to adequately and fully address the complexity of all mental health issues. In the instance before us, we must work within the parameters we are given to ensure justice is dispensed for all.”
Opperud was charged last month with misdemeanor assault after the worker told investigators she almost passed out.
“When Jordan chocked [sic] me, I couldn’t breathe,” the worker wrote in her sworn statement. “His hand was very tight around my neck, I felt like I could pass out if he didn’t stop. I saw black and he held on to my neck for at least 5 sec. but it felt [like] a very long time.”
She went on the say: “I could have lost my life with the amount of pressure and force he used.”
The woman, Taveya Blackmond, on Tuesday stood by her statement but said she had not seen the video.
“I had never been choked like that before,” she said. “He literally choked me.”
Nonetheless, she said she had great affection for Opperud.
Surveillance video from the home — a copy of which was shared with the Houston Chronicle — shows the Blackmond following Opperud into the kitchen as he tries to walk out of a door. She tries to close the door in front of him and he appears to grab her throat. She then pushes his hands away and appears to back him up against a cabinet. They then both move out the door.
Court records show that the arresting officer did not see any redness or markings around the Blackmond’s neck but was still concerned after Opperud said he had been hearing voices telling him to kill. He also had confronted a worker earlier in the month with a butter knife, records show.
In that incident, no one called the police, but instead followed protocol and sent him to a mental hospital for seven days, Walker said.
“Those workers are trained in how to deal with people with all these disorders,” said Walker. “Specifically, Jordan has triggers associated with his explosive disorder. And her slamming the door on him, getting in his face, and not letting him pass was a trigger for him.”
Renea Sartin, an administrator with the group home operator, Pace Opportunity Center, said that Blackmond had been suspended while the incident is being investigated. She declined to comment further because of litigation about the case.
Opperud’s family said the arrest put the young man behind bars with the jail’s general population for at least 24 hours without his many medications. While they were able to make a $1,000 bail to get him out, he still lives in the same group home.
His parents fear another incident could result in another trip to jail, a terrifying prospect because magistrate judges generally will not set bail for someone who commits an offense while free on bail. He could face up to one year in jail if convicted of the class A misdemeanor.
“We’re trying to get him a good home and good education and now we have to worry about keeping him out of jail and having a criminal record,” said Sampson Kirkland, Opperud’s stepfather. “This is the most idiotic thing I’ve ever seen.”
Houston News & Search