Attorney for Doctor Who Drove Wife, Kids Off Cliff Says He's a 'Good Man' as Defense Seeks Mental Health Treatment

Both Dharmesh Patel's legal team and his wife have advocated against jail time

Facebook Dharmesh A. Patel and his family pose for a photo
Facebook Dharmesh A. Patel and his family pose for a photo

An attorney for Dharmesh Patel — the man accused of driving his Tesla off a California cliff with his family inside — called him a "good man" and "decent human being" with "zero criminal history" as his legal team continues to argue against jail time.

Patel was charged with three counts of attempted murder in January 2023 after allegedly driving his family's car off a 250-foot cliff at Devil’s Slide with his wife Neha Patel and their two children — an 8-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son — inside. (Authorities previously told PEOPLE that both parents were injured in the crash, their daughter was hospitalized and their son was left with "bumps and bruises, but no injuries.")

Both his wife and his legal team have advocated against jail time and instead want mental treatment for Patel.

During a hearing held in Mental Health Diversion Court in a San Mateo County courtroom on Friday, May 10, Patel's family and a judge heard closing arguments as his defense attorney Joshua Bentley argued why he shouldn't face criminal charges, per KRON 4.

Related: Wife of Doctor Who Drove Tesla Off Cliff Asks Court to Spare Him Prison: 'We Need Him in Our Lives'

<p>Uncredited/AP/Shutterstock; Sgt. Brian Moore/San Mateo County Sheriff's Office via AP</p> Dharmesh Patel, Tesla Crash

Uncredited/AP/Shutterstock; Sgt. Brian Moore/San Mateo County Sheriff's Office via AP

Dharmesh Patel, Tesla Crash

Stating that "not everyone who commits a crime is a criminal," Bentley further argued why the judge should rule in favor of a mental health diversion.

“Mr. Patel is a good man, a good husband and a good father. He is beloved by his community. He has zero criminal history. [The crash]was 100 percent a mental health episode. He has been receiving treatment for 16 months. Every case has a risk factor," he said, according to KRON.

Per Mercury News, Bentley also mentioned that 47 letters of support were written for Patel. Bentley reiterated, that if granted the treatment, his client would be placed under an intensive program and monitored with a GPS bracelet featuring a siren, KRON reported.

“That was not him. It was 100% a mental health episode,” the attorney said, per the San Francisco Chronicle. “Mr. Patel is a decent human being with zero criminal history. The law calls for this very exact situation, and it allows the court to divert.”

Deputy District Attorney Dominique Davis argued Friday that the case should not qualify for mental health diversion, stating that “the defendant will pose an unreasonable risk of danger to public safety.”

She cited testimony from Dr. Yan Chan and said Patel was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, KRON said.

The illness is "marked by a combination of schizophrenia symptoms, such as hallucinations or delusions, and mood disorder symptoms, such as depression or mania," according to the Mayo Clinic.

“He was hearing footsteps at night," the prosecution said, per KRON. "He feared his children would be sold into sex slavery. He carried a knife around for three days. None of this was based on reality … and the defendant felt compelled to act. He drove his entire family over a cliff. It’s a very high and deathly drop."

“What is most frightening is, no one saw this coming,” Davis added, stating that Patel was able to “mask” his mental illness.

Davis also cited Patel's reported concerns over Russia and Ukraine, child sex trafficking and Jefferey Epstein around the time of the crash.

Related: Father Who Drove His Family Of 4 Off Cliff Suffered Psychotic Break, Doctors Say

Patel was diagnosed with major depressive disorder by experts for the defense team, Dr. James Armontrout and Dr. Mark Patterson, per KRON. His team, which denies he suffers from schizoaffective disorder, argued he would benefit from an outpatient treatment program via El Camino Health Hospital.

According to KRON, Patel faces decades in prison if he's convicted and if his case heads to criminal trial. Judge Susan Jakubowski has said she will not make a ruling until June 20.

“I wouldn’t be doing my job unless I took the time I need to go through this case,” she said, per the Chronicle.

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Patel's wife has advised that her husband get mental health treatment — which would have him released from jail and put on a two-year treatment plan, if granted.

“I don’t want to see Dharmesh prosecuted with any of his charges,” Neha told the judge on May 2, via Zoom, per various outlets. “I am pleading with the court to grant him his mental health diversion.”

“Seeing my kids in constant pain is one of the hardest things I’ve had to endure,” she continued. “Once I tuck my children into bed at night I’m reminded of my own solitude. I really miss my best friend. I really miss my partner in my life.”

Neha also argued that the treatment "will not only restore him back to himself, but will restore our family."

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