Man acquitted for destroying 2nd Ten Commandments monument

A Ten Commandments monument outside the state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark., is blocked off after a man crashed into it with a vehicle, less than 24 hours after the privately funded monument was installed on the Capitol grounds. AP Photo/Jill Zeman Bleed, File.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A man who destroyed a Ten Commandments monument outside of Oklahoma's state Capitol was acquitted Thursday of destroying another one three years later outside of Arkansas', with the judge citing evidence that the man suffers from a mental disease or defect.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza ruled that Michael Tate Reed must return to the state hospital in Little Rock for additional evaluations that could lead to his release. Reed has been held in the state hospital since late last year after Piazza ruled he wasn't fit to proceed to trial.

Reed, 33, didn't speak during the brief hearing. He wore a multi-colored jacket and a T-shirt that quoted Ephesians 6:11 from the Bible: "Put on all of God's armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil."

A state hospital evaluation presented in court Thursday said that Reed lacked the capacity to follow the law when he knocked over the 6,000-pound (2,700-kilogram) monument in June 2017 with his car. A replacement monument now stands in its place, protected by four concrete posts.

Reed destroyed a similar monument in Oklahoma City in 2014, but Oklahoma prosecutors didn't charge him after concerns were raised about his mental health.

The Arkansas state hospital evaluation said Reed was suffering from schizoaffective disorder at the time he destroyed Arkansas' display, and that he suffered from delusions and hallucinations. Under Piazza's order, the hospital must perform another evaluation within 30 days and issue a report on whether his release would create a "substantial risk" of bodily injury to another person or serious property damage. Within 10 days of that report, another hearing must be held to determine whether Reed should remain in the hospital.

"Mr. Reed described being in a manic state and hearing a voice, which he believed was God, tell him to destroy the monument," the report said. "He describes feeling a weight come over him, explaining 'I couldn't think of anything except destroy it now.'"

Reed's attorneys said he's substantially improved since receiving treatment in the state hospital.

"He's night and day from where he was when we started," Robert Hodge, an attorney for Reed said. "He's a lot better than he was, for sure."

A 2015 law required Arkansas to allow the privately funded monument on the state Capitol grounds. Two separate lawsuits were filed in federal court last week seeking the display's removal by groups who call it an unconstitutional endorsement of religion by the state government.

Copyright Associated Press, all rights reserved.

The Gayly. May 31, 2018. 12:27 p.m. CST.