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Therapist who stalked soldier seeks leniency

Dec. 11, 2011 - 05:18PM   |   Last Updated: Dec. 11, 2011 - 05:18PM  |  
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WICHITA, Kan. — A therapist who stalked a soldier she was treating for post-traumatic stress has pleaded for leniency as she awaits her punishment in a bizarre case that culminated in a high-speed chase after she breached the gates of the Fort Riley military installation.

The attorney for Rachelle Santiago, 44, asked U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson to sentence the Manhattan woman on Monday to the three years of probation that prosecutors have recommended.

Santiago pleaded guilty in September to criminal restraint, fleeing and eluding a police officer, criminal threat and illegally entering military property for events that unfolded over three days in January 2011.

Psychiatrists and psychologists who later evaluated her have concluded she was mentally ill and suffering an acute psychotic episode at the time, according her plea agreement.

Defense attorney Ronald Wurtz argued in a court filing that Santiago's behavior was influenced by the steroid prednisone, which his client had taken for her chronic sinus infections.

Santiago has admitted in court documents that she set up a meeting Jan. 22 at the clinic with the sergeant, during which she made sexual advances lasting 15 minutes, a stretch of time in which the sergeant felt he was not free to leave.

The next morning, he found 15 text messages and missed calls from her. The calls and messages continued throughout the day, becoming more threatening. One voice message stated, "When I see you, I am going to kill you. I am going to revive you and kill you again and again."

The soldier reported the matter, and Santiago was interviewed by law enforcement and barred from entering Fort Riley. The next day she broke through the gate at a high rate of speed and led police on a 50-minute-long pursuit through the base at speeds reaching 110 mph.

Her attorney said in court filings that his client chose to waive putting on a defense of insanity or diminished capacity because she acknowledges the damage her behavior caused, regardless of her mental state.

"The soldier she was treating was likely vulnerable to the type of stress and psychological pressure she caused him, and certainly the high-speed fleeing from police posed dangers to police and base inhabitants alike," Wurtz wrote. "On the other hand, no one was physically injured, and the solider was given care by the military medical authorities, and presumably, if he separates from the Army, from the Veterans Administration."

Wurtz told the court Santiago had never been convicted of a crime or professionally disciplined. She had been in a long marriage, had raised two children and had been employed all her life. He also noted that Santiago's plea deal with the government required her to give up her professional license in any state and that she is now "eking out a living" working for fast-food establishments.

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