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Cop who blamed Zoloft for rape was 'zombie-like,' defense says

June 19, 2012 |  2:24 pm

Anthony Nicholas Orban

A New York psychiatrist on Tuesday testified that a former police detective accused of kidnapping and a raping a waitress in Ontario believed he was possessed by demons and thought of killing himself and his wife after taking a potent dose of the antidepressant Zoloft.

The testimony was part of the defense's attempt to convince a San Bernardino County jury that former Westminster police detective Anthony Orban was insane when he kidnapped the woman from Ontario Mills Mall in April 2010.

That same jury last week found Orban guilty of kidnapping and rape, 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.

If the jury finds him not guilty by reason of insanity, Orban would be sent to a state mental hospital for treatment and could later be released. If determined to be sane, Orban likely faces a life prison sentence.

Defense attorney James Blatt of Los Angeles told the jury that, once again, Orban's use of prescription Zoloft will be the "heart and soul of the case"

Dr. Peter Breggin, a psychiatrist who has been a vocal and persistent critic of psychotropic drugs, told jurors 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.

"He did not know what he was doing was legally and mentally wrong at the time of the assault,'' Breggin testified in a Rancho Cucamonga courtroom.

Orban resumed taking the Zoloft five days before the attack, and within days started having delusions that he was possessed by demons and that a cadaver had talked to him, Breggin testified. Orban contemplated suicide, and had fantasies of killing his wife and dog, Breggin said.

"His wife described him as being zombie-like,'' Breggin said.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Debbie Ploghaus, who began her cross-examination of Breggin just before court broke for lunch, questioned whether Orban may have fabricated his violent fantasies.

She noted that a month before the attack, Time magazine had a cover story about a returning Iraq veteran who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and killed his wife and dog after returning home. A copy of that magazine was found in Orban's home.

Orban was a Marine veteran of the Iraq War and his attorney said he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, although that is not a major part of the insanity defense.

The victim, then 25 and working as a 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 her, punching and slapping her throughout the sexual assault. He shoved his police service gun into her mouth, threatening to kill her if she continued crying. The victim believed killing her was his plan all along.

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.

Breggin on Tuesday testified that Orban's failure to hide his identity, and disregard about leaving critical evidence behind at the scene of the attack, showed that he wasn't thinking properly.

"This is not what you would expect of an intelligent policeman who is intent on committing a crime and getting away with it,'' Breggin said.


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-- Phil Willon in Rancho Cucamonga

Photo: Anthony Nicholas Orban, a former Westminster police detective, in May. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times