Man stun-gunned by police ends up in legal limbo
By ERIC FRANCIS
CORRESPONDENT | September 03,2013
ERIC FRANCIS PHOTO
A bandaged Besnick “Nick” Nesimi, 30, of Springfield was in court recently after being stunned with a Taser earlier in the day as he fought with police in his kitchen, sending one officer to the hospital.
WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — A Springfield man who was reported to be wielding “a big stick” and making threats against family members was tasered in his kitchen early Tuesday morning during a fight with police that ended up sending one officer to the hospital.
Besnik “Nick” Nesimi, 30, ended up in court Tuesday afternoon and again Wednesday morning after confusion arose about whether he was technically in the custody of the Department of Mental Health or the Department of Corrections.
During his first appearance at the courthouse Tuesday, Nesimi’s public defender, attorney Dan Stevens, entered innocent pleas on Nesimi’s behalf to a felony charge of aggravated first-degree domestic assault with a weapon and three accompanying misdemeanor counts of resisting arrest and simple assault on police officers.
In recent days Nesimi had been the focus of at least three calls to police from family members concerned about his mental health, according to Springfield Police Officer Jeremy Fitzgibbons’ affidavit, which added that Nesimi had also been “screened” by a mental health agency late last week; however, he had not been admitted to any sort of treatment program as a result.
Just after 5 a.m. Tuesday dispatchers received another call from Nesimi’s older brother, Stephen, saying that he was holding his bedroom door shut as Nick was pounding on it and threatening to harm him.
“It all started at 3 a.m. when (Nick) barged into my room and tried to throw a dresser on top of me, accusing me of trying to put him in a home,” Stephen Nesimi later wrote in a sworn statement to police. “Then every 20 minutes he came into my room while I was sleeping, (first) with a knife, then a big giant stick.”
Sgt. Jon Molgano wrote in his report that when he arrived and entered the residence he found Nick in the kitchen holding a long wooden stick and saying, “Come on, tough guy!”
Molgano said he took out his expandable baton while Officer Fitzgibbons aimed a taser at Nesimi. The sergeant said that during the brief standoff he told Nesimi “to drop the stick approximately 19 times” before Nesimi allegedly raised the stick over his head and advanced toward Fitzgibbons.
“His face was red and he was yelling over and over to ‘shoot him’ and ‘electrocute him,’” Fitzgibbons wrote.
Nesimi was shot with the electrodes and zapped, at which point he fell to the floor, but he allegedly continued to fight for another minute as the officers tried to handcuff him. Sgt. Molgano said Nesimi punched him twice in the face and added that he ended up punching Nesimi twice in the face himself before the struggle was over.
Once other police officers and firefighters arrived and helped put Nesimi in leg restraints, Sgt. Malgano left the residence and went to Springfield Hospital where doctors noted he had “multiple contusions to the face, forearm, and wrist” and was treated for a strained forearm, ending up with his hand in a brace.
During Nesimi’s court appearance on Tuesday afternoon, a mental health screener who interviewed Nesimi in the holding cell at the courthouse in downtown White River Junction told Judge Robert Gerety that she felt Nesimi was suffering from depression and met the legal standard of being a danger to others.
Judge Gerety ordered that Nesimi be sent out for a psychiatric evaluation and then returned to the court within 24 hours of its completion so the court could then decide what to do next.
The judge also set a nominal bail of $500, a technicality meant to insure that Nesimi would get credit towards “time served” in the event he were ever to be convicted and sentenced.
That gesture ended up creating an even larger technical issue when the Brattleboro Retreat, which has been sub-contracting much of the state’s major mental health work for the last two years, refused to even evaluate Nesimi when Windsor County Deputy Sheriff’s showed up at their door with him in their cruiser late Tuesday afternoon.
Windsor County State’s Attorney Michael Kainen explained to Judge Gerety in open court Wednesday morning that what had happened was that the Retreat, which does not have enough “Level One” beds available for all of the people on the waiting list for state-ordered psychiatric emergencies, turned Nesimi away because of concerns that, once the deputies dropped him off and left, they lacked a clear directive what to do with him if they determined he needed a bed there but they didn’t have one to give him.
During a wide-ranging discussion that included prosecutors, defense attorneys, sheriffs, and a deputy attorney general representing the Department of Mental Health, Judge Gerety said Wednesday morning that some of the issue was that when the Legislature wrote the procedures which control how people are held involuntarily for competency and sanity evaluations, they had not foreseen the present situation.
Without an easily accessible state hospital, Gerety said, people who are both patients pending evaluation and potential prisoners awaiting trial end up getting housed in a kind of legal limbo in the infirmaries at the state’s prisons until a more appropriate psychiatric facility has room to see them.
Judge Gerety spoke apologetically from the bench Wednesday for all the confusion that had erupted but, he said, “Sometimes it’s good to create a crisis because it forces us all to think about what we are doing.”