Man Who Drove SUV into Mall Charged with Terrorism

joris-v-541657-unsplash-copy-300x200Javier Garcia, the 22-year-old man who drove an SUV into the Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, has been charged with terrorism. Illinois State Law defines terrorism as any act that causes more than $100,000 worth of damage to a building with five or more businesses inside of it. Unluckily for Garcia, malls apply. He faces a second count of criminal property damage.

Investigators say that this was a planned attack and that Garcia had searched for the Woodfield Mall, including aerial shots of the mall. He seemed particularly interested in Sears for some reason, but no motive for the act has yet been unearthed. 

Those who were there on the scene when Garcia drove his SUV through the mall recall the vehicle barrelling through kiosks and shoppers running panicked for their lives. Garcia was caught on video browsing in Sears, then he left the building and drove his vehicle into the store. Police said that Garcia narrowly missed a children’s train that had children riding on it. While no one was hit by the car itself, three people had to be taken to the hospital with minor injuries.

Defense Prepares to Attack Terrorism Charges

Defense counsel for Garcia has objected to the terrorist charge, saying that Garcia has a history of bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and other psychiatric ailments. However, it is not clear that having a history of psychiatric distress qualifies as a defense to terrorism charges. For instance, Garcia would have trouble raising the same defense in a murder charge. The jurors and prosecution can consider it as a mitigating circumstance, but likely would not exonerate him on the basis of insanity simply because he has psychiatric diagnoses.

If the defense were to raise an insanity defense against the terrorism charges, they would need to prove that Garcia could not know that what he was doing was wrong. If he was indeed psychotic while this act was taking place, they may have a strong case for rehabilitative treatment as opposed to incarceration.

Other Defenses Against a Terrorism Charge

Terrorism, or at least the way that most people think about terrorism, is a politically motivated crime executed in a public space. Its purpose is to murder and maim as many people as possible to make a political statement. However, this particular defendant appears to have no higher agenda and the impetus for this attack appears to be psychiatric illness rather than political violence. 

Will that be enough to save him from a terrorist charge? Perhaps, but his attorney is going to have to do a good job of advocating for him as a person and try to distance the stable Javier Garcia as much as they can from the Javier Garcia who terrorized the Woodfield Mall.

Talk to a Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney

If you have been accused of a major crime in the Chicago area, David Freidberg, Attorney at Law, can help you raise a defense to the charges. Give us a call at (312) 560-7100 or talk to us online for more information.