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Panel rules against veteran who appealed life sentence in murder case

By PHIL DAVIS | The Capital, Annapolis, Md. | Published: February 23, 2019

(Tribune News Service) — A Crofton, Maryland, veteran who claimed he could not receive mental health treatment after being sentenced to life in prison in the killing of his girlfriend has lost his appeal of the sentence.

Through his defense attorney, Ryan Hollebon, 40, had tried to argue that his sentence of life with parole after pleading guilty to first-degree murder in the stabbing death of Jhalandia Butler interfered with his ability to receive mental health treatment while incarcerated. Hollebon entered an Alford plea on Jan. 16, 2018, effectively pleading guilty to the crime but allowing him not to admit guilt, only that the evidence would likely find him guilty.

He also argued in a hand-written note that Butler's death "doesn't define who I am as a person."

However, a three-judge panel denied Hollebon's request, writing that Hollebon's life sentence doesn't make placement for mental health treatment impossible, "rather only that it may be harder to obtain on a life sentence."

Hollebon's defense attorney, Jennifer Alexander, tried to argue that Hollebon was being unnecessarily restricted from mental health treatment at the Patuxent Institution, a maximum security mental health hospital in Jessup.

She said during a hearing in December that Hollebon's life sentence prevented him from being placed at Patuxent's Eligible Persons Program, asking for his sentence to be split to increase his probability of acceptance.

Alexander argued that while Judge Alison Asti recommended him for the program, officials looked at his life sentence as a deterring factor.

In a written opinion filed Feb. 8 Circuit Court judges Cathleen Vitale, William Mulford and Stacy McCormack wrote that they "cannot order Patuxent or require the facility to take (Hollebon) into the program."

"Nothing presented at sentencing or at the review hearing suggested that having a split sentence will guarantee the Defendant treatment at Patuxent," they wrote.

"Furthermore, even if he is admitted, treatment at Patuxent is voluntary," the opinion reads. "Therefore, there is no guarantee that (Hollebon) would actually choose the treatment if it was offered to him, leaving (Hollebon) simply the benefit of a reduced sentence without completing the program."

The judges also pointed to Hollebon's past, as before Butler's death, he was receiving treatment for PTSD at a Veteran Affairs facility in West Virginia in 2016, but ultimately left before completing the program.

Alexander said she wasn't "saying he shouldn't be punished" but that he "is rectifiable with treatment."

"Mr. Hollebon had a documented history of mental health diagnoses based on his military service to our country and he had the opportunity to become a more attractive and eligible candidate for treatment," she said.

She added that there may be more cases like Hollebon's until "the judicial system starts really looking at the epidemic of mental health."

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