Published November 20, 2014
A California jury on Tuesday found that a former police detective who blamed the antidepressant Zoloft for his behavior was sane when he abducted and raped a waitress at gunpoint.
Jurors delivered their findings in the case of 32-year-old former Westminster police detective Anthony Nicholas Orban after convicting him earlier this month of the brutal attack that began outside a mall in the suburbs east of Los Angeles in 2010.
Orban — who served in the Marines in Iraq — had pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity to eight counts, including kidnapping and rape, and claimed that his use of Zoloft had rendered him effectively unconscious at the time of the rape.
Deputy District Attorney Debbie Ploghaus said she didn't believe the antidepressant had anything to do with Orban's behavior and noted he had been drinking heavily with a friend before the attack.
"He had this whole other side of him that nobody saw," she said, adding that Orban's friend testified during the roughly two-month trial in San Bernardino County Superior Court that Orban had told him he would get turned on by reading rape reports.
Defense attorney James Blatt said cases involving temporary insanity are extremely difficult to win. He also said he believes this particular case highlights the dangers in taking the medication, noting that Orban had a successful career as a law enforcement officer.
"Juries are very reluctant to give an individual a pass when the mental disease is temporary and when there's a significant amount of alcohol connected to the case," he said.
Orban is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 9. He could face a life sentence.
Prosecutors said the off-duty officer used his service weapon on April 3, 2010, to abduct the woman and force her to drive to a self-storage lot, where he sexually assaulted her and shoved a gun in her mouth.
Prosecutors said the woman escaped when Orban was distracted by an incoming cellphone call.
Orban's friend Jeff Jelinek — who had been drinking with him at the mall — testified during the trial. Prosecutors said the former prison guard picked up Orban after the attack.
In a plea deal with prosecutors, Jelinek pleaded no contest last year to being an accessory, false imprisonment and assault.