This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2002).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Ramsey County District Court
File No. P301441
Kathleen K. Rauenhorst, Rauenhorst & Associates, P.A., Suite 225, Rosedale Towers, 1700 West Highway 36, Roseville, MN 55113 (for appellant Adamich)
Susan Gaertner, Ramsey County Attorney, Richard H. Hoffman, Assistant County Attorney, Suite 315, Ramsey County Government Center West, 50 Kellogg Boulevard West, St. Paul, MN 55102 (for respondent State)
Considered and decided by Stoneburner, Presiding Judge, Anderson, Judge, and Wright, Judge.
Appellant Robert Anthony Adamich challenges his commitment as mentally ill and dangerous, arguing that at the time of his commitment hearing there was insufficient evidence in the record to show that he was dangerous. Appellant also contends that the Minnesota Security Hospital is not the least restrictive treatment alternative. We affirm.
Appellant admits he is mentally ill and that he is diagnosed with schizophrenia, paranoid type. He experienced a psychotic episode in 1999, during which he drove “up north” with a .357 magnum handgun to avenge an imagined rape of a relative. No one was harmed and appellant’s family brought him to the hospital. A commitment petition was filed. At the commitment hearing, appellant testified that voices of the devil led to his driving “up north” with the gun. Commitment was stayed for six months on the condition that appellant receive treatment. When the commitment order expired in May 2001, appellant’s psychiatrist agreed to appellant’s request to discontinue medications.
On August 5, 2001, appellant smashed some windows of the Ramsey County Courthouse with a baseball bat and used the bat to strike a public-safety officer who responded to the sound of glass breaking. Appellant stood over the officer and threatened to kill him if he moved or got up. Appellant then entered the area of the mayor’s office, scrawled some messages, struck the mayor’s door with the bat several times and left the building. St. Paul police officers were waiting for him. Two officers, with weapons drawn, ordered appellant to drop his bat, but he ignored them. Appellant calmly walked to his truck and was not affected by being sprayed with Freeze-Plus-P, a mace-like aerosol irritant. Appellant backed up his pickup, pinning an officer against a light pole, seriously injuring her. An officer was preparing to use deadly force against appellant but he was stopped when another officer got in the line of fire. Appellant drove away and was pursued by several officers. Appellant ran red lights, drove through tire-slashers (called stop sticks) on interstate 35, drove the wrong way on interstate 694, and was eventually forced off of the road and taken into custody.
Appellant was charged with burglary in the first degree, assault, and fleeing a police officer in a motor vehicle. A petition for judicial commitment as mentally ill and dangerous was filed. Appellant waived his right to the initial commitment hearing and was committed to the Minnesota Security Hospital as mentally ill and dangerous. After the 60-day commitment review and final-determination hearing, the district court found appellant to be mentally ill and dangerous and committed him indefinitely to the Minnesota Security Hospital. This appeal followed.
Appellant challenges the commitment arguing that, although he is mentally ill and was dangerous on August 5, 2001, the evidence was insufficient at the time of the final-determination hearing to support the finding that he continues to be dangerous or is substantially likely to engage in acts capable of inflicting serious physical harm on another. Appellant also argues that his mental illness could be treated in an open hospital setting.
In reviewing the commitment of an individual as mentally ill and dangerous, this court is limited to an examination of the district court’s compliance with the statute and whether the commitment is justified by findings based on evidence at the hearing. In re Knops, 536 N.W.2d 616, 620 (Minn. 1995). The district court’s finding that an appellant is mentally ill and dangerous at the time of the hearing will not be disturbed unless clearly erroneous. Id.; In re Bobo, 376 N.W.2d 429, 432 (Minn. App. 1985). The record is reviewed in the light most favorable to the district court’s decision, with due regard for the opportunity of the district court to judge the credibility of the witnesses. Knops, 536 N.W.2d at 620. Where the district court’s findings of fact are based mostly on expert testimony, its evaluation of the expert’s credibility is of particular significance. Id. But whether the evidence is sufficient to prove that a person committed an overt act causing serious physical harm to another, and if that person is likely to engage in such acts in the future, is a question of law that we review de novo. Id.
A person is legally defined as mentally ill and dangerous if a district court finds, by clear and convincing evidence, that the individual is one
(a) who is mentally ill; and
(b) who as a result of that mental illness presents a clear danger to the safety of others as demonstrated by the facts that (i) the person has engaged in an overt act causing or attempting to cause serious physical harm to another and (ii) there is a substantial likelihood that the person will engage in acts capable of inflicting serious physical harm on another.
Minn. Stat. § 253B.02, subd. 17 (2000) (emphasis added).
Following an initial commitment as mentally ill and dangerous, a review hearing must be held. If the court finds at the review hearing that the person continues to be mentally ill and dangerous, then the court shall order commitment for an indeterminate period of time. Minn. Stat. § 253B.18, subd. 3. A person who poses only a substantial likelihood of physical harm to self or others may be committed as mentally ill, but not as mentally ill and dangerous. In re Kottke, 433 N.W.2d 881, 884 (Minn. 1988) (comparing Minn. Stat. § 253B.02, subd. 17(b) to § 253.02, subd. 13). The legislature has not defined “serious physical harm” and appellate courts apply the common understanding of the word serious. Id.
We reject appellant’s assertion that the harm he inflicted on August 5 was only physical harm similar to that inflicted by Kottke, and not serious physical harm as contemplated by the statute. Kottke’s assault involved two blows from his fist causing the victims to suffer, respectively, red marks and a sprained thumb. Id. at 883. Appellant struck one officer with a baseball bat causing a back injury and threatened to kill the officer if he got up. Appellant pinned another officer between his vehicle and a light pole, causing a fractured collarbone. Appellant seriously harmed both officers. Appellant’s argument that “he was merely delivering a message to the mayor” and did not intend to inflict serious physical injury is immaterial. See In re Jasmer, 447 N.W.2d 192, 195 (Minn. 1989) (noting that intent of party is immaterial to determination of whether he caused serious harm to another).
Appellant contends that due to the improvement in his condition he is no longer dangerous and that the evidence presented at the hearing is insufficient to support the district court’s finding that there is a substantial likelihood he will engage in acts capable of inflicting serious physical harm. We disagree. Dr. Karen Bruggemeyer, staff forensic psychiatrist at the Minnesota State Hospital, testified that appellant suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, lacks insight into his disease, has a history of drug abuse, used weapons, assaulted a police officer, and threatened hospital staff. Dr. Hector Zellor, a psychiatrist, testified that the likelihood “is quite high” that appellant could be dangerous in the future, noting that appellant suffers from a significant psychiatric disorder, experiences chronic delusions and denies responsibility for his past actions. Both doctors testified that, without treatment, appellant is likely to engage in acts capable of inflicting serious harm on others. The evidence in the record is clear and convincing that, at the time of the hearing, appellant met the statutory criteria of mentally ill and dangerous as defined by Minn. Stat. § 253B.02 subd. 17(b).
Appellant also argues that he is capable of being effectively treated in an open treatment facility, less restrictive than the Minnesota Security Hospital. Appellant has the burden to establish by clear and convincing evidence that a less-restrictive treatment program than commitment to a secure treatment facility is available, and is consistent with his treatment needs and the requirements of public safety. Minn. Stat. § 253B.18, subd. 1(a) (2000). Dr. Bruggemeyer testified that appellant needs long-term treatment in a secure setting where staff is attuned to the issue of dangerousness, and that an open hospital is not the proper place for appellant at this time. Dr. Zeller concurred. Dr. Alberg testified that appellant could be adequately treated in an open hospital only if he cooperates with treatment and medication. The district court did not err by concluding that appellant failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that a less-restrictive program is consistent with both his treatment needs and the requirements of public safety at this time.
 After the commitment, the district court found appellant not guilty of the criminal charges by reason of mental illness.