Ross Farca speaking with an attorney outside Contra Costa Superior Court, Sept. 26, 2019. (Photo/Gabe Stutman)
Ross Farca speaking with an attorney outside Contra Costa Superior Court, Sept. 26, 2019. (Photo/Gabe Stutman)

Lawyers for Ross Farca, East Bay man who threatened to kill Jews, petition for mental health treatment in lieu of jail time

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With sentencing for their client on the horizon, lawyers for convicted felon Ross Farca are attempting a last-minute effort to divert the 26-year-old from prison into court-supervised mental health counseling.

With a judge’s approval, Farca — found guilty on Dec. 1 of violating the civil rights of Jews, building an illegal AR-15-style assault rifle and threatening a police officer — could soon be released through California’s mental health diversion program.

Farca’s arrest in Concord in June 2019 alarmed members of the Bay Area Jewish community after learning he had posted online about a mass shooting: “I would get a body count of like 30 kikes and then like 5 police officers because I would also decide to fight to the death,” he wrote.

Though Farca has spent the better part of two years behind bars for violating the terms of bail and remains incarcerated, sentencing has been  postponed to give his lawyers time to argue for the alternative. The district attorney’s office is arguing he should serve the maximum of nine years in state prison.

The diversion program gives California judges broad latitude to grant people charged with certain crimes a chance to undergo psychological treatment. It requires the court to find that the individual’s mental illness “played a significant role” in the commission of the crime, and a mental health expert to render an opinion on whether the person would respond to psychological care. People charged with murder, voluntary manslaughter and rape are not eligible for mental health diversion, according to the 2018 law’s text.

Diversion programs can be inpatient or outpatient, though Farca’s lawyers have petitioned for an outpatient program.

“The judge gets to structure it,” said David Silldorf, a Jewish criminal defense attorney in San Diego who has practiced criminal law for 15 years.

He said he has seen successful implementation of the program in which the individual gets treatment and medication, undergoes a course of therapy and passes a “battery of tests” to determine he no longer poses a danger to himself or others.

“Often we do worse by putting people in prison,” he said.

“What no judge wants,” Silldorf added, “is to put somebody who has a propensity for violence into mental health diversion, and then for them to commit a serious violent crime.”

Illegally assembled AR-15-style assault rifle and ammunition magazines recovered during a search of Ross Farca's Concord home. (Photo/Concord Police Department)
Illegally assembled AR-15-style assault rifle and ammunition magazines recovered during a search of Ross Farca’s Concord home, June 2019. (Photo/Concord Police Department)

A judge will establish “benchmarks,” he said, requiring the person to return to court for regular check-ins and to produce medical records to prove he is following the required course of treatment. The judge can revoke the arrangement if the person falls out of compliance.

In some instances prosecutors and defense lawyers agree on mental health diversion programs, Silldorf said. In this case, the district attorney’s office is strongly against it.

“Based upon his criminality and threat to community safety, the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office strongly opposes Farca’s petition for release into any outpatient program,” read a statement emailed by Bobbi Mauler, executive assistant to District Attorney Diana Becton. “Having been convicted of unlawful possession of assault weapons, criminal threats, and a hate crime, Farca could be sentenced to state prison for a maximum of 9 years and 8 months.”

The lead prosecutor in the case is Amber White, who has described Farca as “a serious danger to members of the Jewish faith.” Discretion ultimately rests with the judge.

Though Farca was deemed competent to stand trial, his lawyers have argued throughout the legal proceedings that his mental illness — including diagnoses of autism and obsessive-compulsive disorder — influenced his behavior.

Farca has at times behaved erratically in court, calling out and speaking out of turn, drawing reprimands from the judge. Court filings described him struggling to bathe regularly in jail and getting into fights. A psychologist testified at trial that he is verbally intelligent but severely limited in social skills.

Farca did not grasp the significance of his words, his lawyers have argued, when in June of 2019 he posted on the website Steam, just weeks after the Chabad of Poway attack, about a mass shooting targeting Jews: “What do you think of me doing what John Earnest tried to do, but with a Nazi uniform, an unregistered and illegally converted ‘machine gun’ and actually livestreaming it with Nazi music?”

“I currently own an AR15,” he wrote in the post, describing how to convert it into an “M16.”

Farca has shown a keen interest in weapons and firearms. Police found a semiautomatic rifle, high-capacity rifle magazines, ammunition and used rifle targets in his home.

As a convicted felon he is barred from possessing a firearm, and Farca remains subject to terms of probation from a separate federal conviction in 2020. He is incarcerated at the Martinez Detention Facility.

A hearing on the diversion petition is scheduled for Feb. 28.

Gabe Stutman
Gabe Stutman

Gabe Stutman is the news editor of J. Follow him on Twitter @jnewsgabe.