SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – The man who forced his way into the historic Governor’s Mansion last year because he thought wild animals were attacking then-governor Jerry Brown never realized mental illness was behind his lifelong bizarre behavior.
“I have been mentally ill my whole life and not had any idea,” said Steven Seeley, 52. “I just thought I was a troublemaker.”
Seeley was homeless and squatting at a boarded-up motel across the street from the Governor’s Mansion in April 2018 when a schizophrenic breakdown convinced him that mountain lions were threatening the governor and his wife.
After entering the residence, Seeley believed the animals had turned on him and he nearly died when he dove through a second-story window.
As a career offender Seeley faced three years in state prison — but this time, for the first time, the justice system recognized Seeley needed help and not prison. Seeley was offered a diversion program that would help him avoid prison by addressing his mental health issues. He initially declined the offer because he didn’t recognize the depth of his illness.
Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Lawrence Brown presides over mental health court and oversees about 140 active cases, including Seeley’s.
“They have to be with my court for at least a year,” Brown explained. “If they get through the program they graduate and their cases, most of the time, get dismissed.”
Seeley followed through with counseling and medication and for the first time, he’s living on his own in an apartment in North Sacramento. This week he graduated from the mental health court program and received a round of applause when the Brown announced his criminal case had been dismissed.
After being in and out of prison his entire adult life, Seeley appreciates his fresh start at age 52.
“I’m really loving the new possibilities, the doors that have opened in my life today.”