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Zoloft defendant: 'I can’t imagine doing this to another person'

June 20, 2012 |  1:35 pm

Anthony Orban
A former Westminster police detective facing kidnapping and rape charges on Wednesday broke down on the witness stand, saying he had no memory of the attack because of a blackout triggered by the antidepressant Zoloft.

"It’s absolutely horrendous," Anthony Orban told the jury. "I can’t imagine doing this to another person."

Orban’s testimony is crucial to his attempt to convince a San Bernardino County jury that he was insane when he abducted a young waitress from Ontario Mills Mall in April 2010 and then brutally raped her.

That same jury last week found Orban guilty of kidnapping and multiple sexual assault charges, dismissing the defense’s claims that Zoloft had rendered Orban mentally "unconscious" and therefore not responsible for his actions. During the sanity phase of the trial, the defense has the burden to prove that Orban “more likely than not” was unable to tell the difference between right and wrong at the time of the attack.

Orban said that after not taking the antidepressant for nearly a month, he restarted his Zoloft prescription at full strength less than a week before the attack. Within days, he said, he was overwhelmed by anxiety, hearing voices at night and contemplating suicide and killing his wife
“I keep having this obsession with suicide. I had this drive of self-destruction," Orban testified. “I felt that I had to kill my wife.... It wasn’t a matter of thinking about it, it was the way it had to be."

Deputy Dist. Atty. Debbie Ploghaus, on cross-examination, pointedly went after Orban’s claim that he had no memory of the attack.

She pressed the former detective to admit that the Zoloft-related symptoms he claimed to suffer, including feeling “zombie-like,” were lifted from a book he read called “Medication Madness: A Psychiatrist Exposes the Dangers of Mood-Altering Medications.”  The book’s author, New York psychiatrist Dr. Peter Breggin, testified for the defense on Tuesday.

“No ma’am,” Orban responded.

The prosecution’s cross-examination is scheduled to continue Wednesday afternoon.


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Photo: Anthony Orban looks at bottles of Zoloft during cross-examination Wednesday in San Bernardino County Superior Court. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times