A Sacramento judge, in sentencing Jesus Gallegos to 26-years to life in prison for the murder of Triston Salladay, said from the bench today that the killing likely never would have taken place if the state's mental heath system had been "adequately resourced."
Superior Court Judge Steve White made the remarks after Gallegos' attorney, Assistant Public Defender Amy Rogers, told the court that her client had been treated "for a short period of time" prior to his fatal Feb. 14, 2010, knife attack on Salladay, but that he ran out of medications once he was sent home.
"Due to lack of resources, lack of funding, lack of insurance, he was not able to keep his medication," Rogers said in court. "So then he went off medication, and as a result we are here today."
Gallegos, now 23, stabbed Salladay, a 23-year-old electrician, inside the victim's upstairs apartment in the 3500 block of 53rd Street in Tahoe Park. The two knew each other and had played video games together. It was a neighborhood dispute over the theft of Salladay's PlayStation that authorities said played a role in the fatal confrontation between the two.
Prior to his sentencing, Gallegos told the court, "I'm sorry for what I did," but that he had "a device" inside his head and "I was controlled to do it."
"I just want to say I was forced to do it because I have a device in my mind, embedded in my mind," Gallegos said.
His lawyer said that even though Gallegos has "pretty significant mental health issues," they did not rise to the level of his entering a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. Rogers said Gallegos has been "under constant treatment" in the downtown jail since his arrest, "and he is currently medicated."
White told Gallegos "it was apparent in court you had mental health issues" during the trial. But the judge said it also is "equally clear that the law holds you accountable for your conduct."
"This is a tragedy all the way around, most significantly for Mr. Salladay, who lost his life," White said. "It also is a tragedy that reflects badly on the way the mental health system is resourced and provided in our community and communities throughout California and this country.
"It is merely a footnote to the sentencing, but it strikes the court that had the proper mental health facilities been available, and adequately resourced, Mr. Salladay would still be alive today," the judge said.