Man accused of driving family off California cliff granted mental health diversion program, district attorney says

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A California man accused of deliberately driving himself, his wife and two children off a cliff on a coastal highway in January 2023 was granted a mental health diversion, meaning the criminal trial is now suspended, the San Mateo County District Attorney’s office said in a news release Thursday.

Judge Susan Jakubowski said she granted the defense’s request for mental health diversion after reviewing the evidence and concluding Dharmesh Patel’s proper diagnosis was major depressive disorder.

Patel, 42, was charged with three counts of attempted murder last year after prosecutors said he intentionally steered his Tesla off a portion of the Pacific Coast Highway called Devil’s Slide, sending himself, his wife and their two children, ages 7 and 4 at the time, plunging about 250 feet to a rocky beach below. Patel pleaded not guilty to the charges.

All four family members survived the crash. Patel’s wife was hospitalized for “major injuries” and the couple’s 7-year-old child was also injured, San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said at the time. They have since recovered.

Now, at the suggestion of the defense doctors, Patel will be held in county jail for a couple weeks as a “bridging period,” according to the release. Patel will remain in custody until his next hearing on July 1 for “further proceedings on the court’s order.”

Once he is released, Patel will be required to stay at his parents’ home in San Mateo County as part of the diversion, and will only be allowed to leave the residence to attend court or treatment sessions, according to the release.

He will be required to wear a GPS monitor, return to court once a week for progress reports, test twice a week to show medication compliance, must abstain from alcohol and drugs and cannot possess weapons, the release said. He is also not allowed to drive and has to surrender his driver’s license and passport to the court.

CNN has reached out to Patel’s attorney for comment.

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