Settlement reached in attack by mentally ill man
Theresa Lindberg sued the state Department of Corrections and Compass Health, a nonprofit behavioral health services provider, three years after she was beaten in front of her 6-year-old son. Lindberg alleged that the state and Compass Health failed to adequately supervise Anthony Viscussi, a violent felon living with severe mental illness.
Viscussi clobbered Lindberg with a metal pipe after she picked up her kindergartner from the school bus. The unprovoked attack happened in her front yard. Viscussi lived in an apartment across the street.
He was placed in the neighborhood while being supervised by the state Department of Corrections under the state's Dangerous Mentally Ill Offender program and was receiving mental health services from Compass Health.
"They knew he was dangerous. There were red flags all over the place. They should have done more," Seattle attorney Frank Shoichet said this week.
The 2006 assault was Viscussi's third strike under the state's persistent offender law. He is serving a life sentence without the chance of release. Viscussi is housed at the Washington State Penitentiary.
Compass Health's chief executive officer declined to comment Thursday, citing privacy concerns.
Tom Sebastian also said all parties agreed to keep information about the settlement confidential.
The state was represented by the Attorney General's Office. A spokeswoman there said Thursday that her office believes the settlement was fair.
"We really hope it will help people move on with their lives," Alison Dempsey-Hall said.
Court documents show that the state agreed to pay Lindberg and her son $175,000 and Compass Health settled for $125,000. A Snohomish County Superior Court judge signed off on the settlement in October.
The most important outcome, Shoichet said, is that the Lindbergs were able to move from the house on Lombard Avenue where the attack happened. They relocated a few weeks ago, he said.
"She looks like a woman who was freed from her own special jail," Shoichet said. "Every day she walked out of that house she relived the incident."
Lindberg has suffered from anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder since the beating. She and her son have undergone counseling, Shoichet said. The numerous counselors and doctors who evaluated them agreed that the family needed to find a new place to live.
The Lindbergs didn't have the means until recently, her attorney said.
Viscussi had only lived across the street from the family for about a month before the attack.
He was under supervision for a previous assault conviction. Before he was released from prison in 2003, state officials determined that he didn't meet the criteria to be hospitalized against his will. He was, however, eligible for the Dangerous Mentally Ill Offender program, a joint partnership between corrections and the state Department of Social and Health Services.
The program was intended to provide closer supervision to severely mentally ill offenders once released into the community. Compass Health contracted with the state to provide Viscussi with mental health services.
Viscussi remained relatively crime-free until 2006. Beginning in January of that year, however, he began to rack up probation violations as his mental health appeared to be deteriorating.
His father warned officials that his son was acting out and showing signs of an instability. He also was using illegal drugs.
In at least three incidents, Viscussi was booked into jail for assaulting people. He was arrested in September 2006 for testing positive for methamphetamine use.
Once he was released from jail, he was moved to the apartment on Lombard. His landlord suggested the move after he'd received complaints from tenants about Viscussi's behavior.
Days before the assault on Lindberg, Viscussi was found with brass knuckles, a knife and a throwing star. The items were seized but Viscussi was not arrested. His corrections officer later was demoted over the decision not to take Viscussi to jail, according to court documents.
The lawsuit alleged that there also was evidence that Viscussi wasn't taking his medications in the months leading up to the attack. His doctor noted that if he wasn't observed taking his medications that she would recommend that he be given the medications intravenously. The lawsuit alleged that Viscussi's case manager never followed through and failed to take the appropriate steps to make sure Viscussi was complying with his doctor's orders.
In a 2012 deposition, Viscussi said he hadn't taken his anti-psychotic medications in the days before the attack. He admitted that he had sold and traded the drugs.
On Oct. 23, 2006, Lindberg was on her porch, getting her house keys out, when she saw Viscussi jump the fence in her front yard. He asked, "How are you doing ma'am?" Then, without warning, he bashed her repeatedly in he head. Her son cowered nearby.
"She couldn't even run. She didn't have time to do anything," her husband told The Herald in 2006.
Some construction workers across the street heard the commotion. They yelled at Viscussi, who ran off and hid in some bushes. He fought with police officers during his arrest.
Lindberg was rushed to a hospital with a large gash to her head.
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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