The Georgetown community watched with great attention as Daniel Milzman (COL ’16) was arrested, arraigned and detained by federal officials for possession of ricin, a deadly biological toxin, over the past two weeks.
In a pre-trial detention hearing, Magistrate Judge John M. Facciola ordered Milzman’s release to Sibley Memorial Hospital for psychiatric care and then to his parents’ home pending trial, on the basis that Milzman had been suffering from depression since high school, spurring his decision to make the toxin. On Monday, however, Chief Judge Richard W. Roberts reversed that decision, ordering Milzman to stay in jail pending trial.
This decision, while based on Milzman’s manufacturing of ricin as well as threatening Facebook messages he sent to another student earlier this year, is not in the best interest of Milzman or those he put in danger on the sixth floor of McCarthy Hall.
Both Facciola and Roberts recognized that Milzman suffers from depression. However, the two judges evaluated Milzman’s potential danger to the community differently, coming to opposing conclusions about his continued detention. In the original detention hearing and subsequent appeal hearings, attorneys discussed the type of psychiatric treatment available at Sibley and at D.C. Jail, where Milzman is being held. It seems clear that D.C. Jail does not offer the same level of treatment as Sibley, and that staying in confinement has the potential to exacerbate Milzman’s depression.
Holding the indicted without bail for the most egregious crimes provides a protective service to the public. But holding Milzman — a college sophomore entangled in the criminal justice system as a result of a history of poor mental health — in prison before his conviction is an empty decision that protects no one. At this point, it is clear that Milzman committed a federal offense. But holding him in jail does not benefit his surrounding community any more than keeping him in psychiatric treatment would, and it certainly does not benefit Milzman or his family.
We support any effort the defense takes to appeal this decision, and we urge the federal court to show mercy and an understanding of mental health issues when it comes to our classmate Daniel Milzman.