Jury rejects insanity in Zoloft rape case; ex-cop will go to jail
A San Bernardino County jury Tuesday rejected a former Westminster police detective’s defense that he was legally insane due to antidepressant use when he kidnapped and brutally raped a waitress from the Ontario Mills Mall two years ago.
The decision in the sanity phase of the trial means Anthony Orban will serve time in jail rather than receive treatment at a state mental hospital.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Debbie Ploghaus said Tuesday she was very happy with the verdict and considered the Zoloft defense to be a ruse concocted after Orban was arrested. "He's very dangerous. He's very manipulative," she said. "I truly believe in my heart that he had no intention of letting her go."
Orban testified that he had no memory of the lengthy attack and blamed a psychotic break induced by a powerful dose of the popular antidepressant Zoloft, which he also blamed for triggering hallucinations and suicidal and homicidal fantasies during the week of the abduction.
The same jury earlier this month found Orban guilty of kidnapping, rape and multiple counts of sexual assault, dismissing the defense’s claims that Zoloft had rendered Orban mentally “unconscious” and therefore not responsible for his actions.
Zoloft again was central to the defense in the sanity phase, when Orban’s attorney, James Blatt, tried to convince the jury that his client should be sent to a state mental hospital for treatment, not prison.
Defense witness Dr. Peter Breggin, a New York psychiatrist who has testified about the dangers of psychotropic drugs in trials across North America, told jurors that Orban was “zombie-like” in the days leading up to the attack. He said that Orban had stopped taking the prescribed antidepressant, then resumed it at full dose, provoking a psychotic break during which he was "delirious" and not fully aware of his actions.
The main witness for the prosecution, clinical psychologist Dr. Craig Rath of San Bernardino, on Thursday told the jury that Orban’s blackout was caused more by alcohol than by Zoloft. The day of the attack, Orban and a friend barhopped across Ontario, ordering eight margaritas and two pitchers of beer between them, according to evidence presented at the trial.
"He was not insane," said Roth, testifying about his court-ordered analysis of Orban’s mental state. "He understood the nature and quality of his acts and could distinguish between right and wrong."
During the trial, Ploghaus called the so-called Zoloft defense a "bunch of baloney," saying that Orban had "sex on his mind" shortly before the attack. The night before, he had an argument with his wife and, in the hours before the abduction, sent 45 text messages to a woman with whom he'd recently had an affair.
The victim, a 25-year-old waitress, testified earlier in the trial that Orban kidnapped her as she walked to her car in the Ontario Mills Mall parking lot, then forced her to drive north to Fontana. After they stopped at a self-storage lot, Orban brutally raped and tormented her, she said.
When Orban was distracted by an incoming cellphone call, the woman said, she jumped out of the car and ran to safety at a nearby liquor store. Police later recovered Orban's gun, with his name on it, from the victim's car.
-- Phil Willon in Rancho Cucamonga
Photo: Anthony Orban views bottles of Zoloft shown to him during the sanity phase of his trial. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times