Calif. doctor, accused of driving family off cliff, to undergo mental health treatment

San Mateo authorities locate a Tesla that crashed down a cliff off Calfornia's Pacific Coast Highway on January 2, 2023. Dharmesh Patel, who was charged with three counts of attempted murder in the crash after his wife and two young children survived, was released from jail Monday and ordered into a two-year mental health diversion program. File Photo courtesy of San Mateo Sheriff's Office

San Mateo authorities locate a Tesla that crashed down a cliff off Calfornia’s Pacific Coast Highway on January 2, 2023. Dharmesh Patel, who was charged with three counts of attempted murder in the crash after his wife and two young children survived, was released from jail Monday and ordered into a two-year mental health diversion program. File Photo courtesy of San Mateo Sheriff’s Office

July 8 (UPI) — A California doctor, accused of deliberately driving his Tesla off a 250-foot cliff with his wife and two children inside, was released from jail Monday and ordered to undergo two years of mental health treatment.

Dharmesh Arvind Patel, 43, was ordered into a two-year diversion program, which if he completes successfully will allow the three counts of attempted murder he is charged with to be dropped.

Prosecutors criticized San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Susan Jakubowski’s decision, saying an attempted murder charge should not qualify for a diversion program.

“We felt the crime was too serious, and the public danger too high,” San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe argued. “He did everything he could to kill his family and himself.”

Jakubowski ordered Patel to live at his parents’ home and wear a GPS monitor while he is in treatment. He will not be allowed to see his wife and children — who survived the crash — practice medicine, drink alcohol, smoke marijuana or drive.

“He wants to continue psychiatric treatment,” Jakubowski said last month. “The court believes he now realized the importance of being forthright.”

Patel is accused of driving his family off a cliff, called “Devil’s Slide,” along California’s Pacific Coast Highway north of Half Moon Bay on Jan. 2, 2023. The radiologist, his wife and children survived the drop and had to be cut out of the demolished Tesla.

Patel’s wife told officers, “He said he was going to drive off the cliff. He drove off on purpose,” according to court documents.

Witnesses and surveillance footage show the Tesla driving off the road without braking. Patel pleaded “not guilty” to three counts of attempted murder, claiming the Tesla had been experiencing tire issues before the crash.

According to court testimony, psychologists testified that Patel tried to kill his two children — ages 4 and 7 at the time of the crash — because they could be forced into sex trafficking by kidnappers associated with Jeffrey Epstein.

“Mental health diversion is good for a bunch of defenses,” Wagstaffe said, “but we didn’t feel it was good for this.”

Before his release Monday, Patel had been held without bail since the crash.

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