Opinion

NO, REALLY: Kooks get a court date while mentally ill get jail

Let me tell you the strange story of Daniel Sabo.

One day in 1986, near the Yukon community of Mayo, Mr. Sabo finds what he believes is a meteorite.

For years it bounces around from his home, to his parents’ place in New Mexico, and then he tries to sell it. But by 1999 it winds up back on the shelf at his Yukon abode.

And that’s when a seam on his prized rock starts to take on a mysterious green colour. Convinced this is an extraterrestrial life form, Sabo has it sent to the Geological Survey of Canada to have analyzed. So, the good scientists cut a small chunk off said meteorite to determine its origins, tell him it will take further analysis to determine if it is, in fact, a meteorite...and that’s when all the trouble starts. Sabo, to use a phrase, loses it and demands they immediately return his extraterrestrial evidence.

They give it back, but that’s not good enough for Sabo who wants the missing chunk too. Not only that, he claims they’ve sent him a fake – a duplicate meteorite!

Naturally, Sabo represents himself as he embarks on a protracted legal campaign to get back the “real” meteorite or be reimbursed to the tune of $12.1 million – based on the calculation of $50,000 a gram.

His legal fight begins in 2002, but the actual case isn’t heard until 2011 in B.C. Supreme Court. After hearing evidence and experts from the Geological Survey, the judge rejects Sabo’s story “in the strongest possible terms.” Of course, the saga doesn’t end there. Sabo appeals and this week the appellant court, while upholding the trial judge’s findings, does award Sabo $1,000 for his missing chunk of rock.

Not bad, I guess, if you’re willing to spend a decade on a court case for 10 bucks a year. But the costs go way, way beyond the $1,000. Judges, court staff, government lawyers and experts were all paid daily wages in addition to travel and food expenses. We’re talking tens of thousands of dollars for a case that is, well, crazy.

Now the reason I tell you this is because of the flip side: In our court system it’s crazy how we deal with people with mental illness.

By the time they’re in court for breaching a no-go order or consuming alcohol or drugs, they’re tossed in jail where they often remain for weeks on end with very little medical support or attention.

And the reason they’re in jail is because there’s no room at the “mental health inn.” Policy changes and funding cuts have shunted the people with most serious issues into the hands of those who should be dealing with criminals.

The people who work in the courts do their best, but it’s a situation they don’t like, especially with so many other real kooks to deal with...such as Mr. Sabo.

paulr@campbellrivermirror.com

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