A San Francisco judge today allowed a 29-year-old man convicted earlier this year of stabbing two people, including a 15-year-old girl, at a San Francisco bakery in 2007 to withdraw his insanity plea and be sentenced to prison instead of a state mental hospital stay.
A San Francisco Superior Court jury found Scott Thomas guilty on March 2 of two counts of attempted murder and one count of aggravated mayhem for the May 19, 2007, attacks at Creighton’s bakery in Twin Peaks. He had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
Thomas had been paroled from prison the day before the attacks, during which he stabbed high school student Loren Schaller and 60-year-old Kermit Kubitz. Schaller was attacked first, and Kubitz was stabbed when he tried to intercede. Schaller nearly bled to death.
Though the jury agreed Thomas committed the crimes, they could not agree whether he was legally insane at the time. A mistrial on the sanity issue was declared on April 5, and a retrial had been pending.
Trial Judge Suzanne Bolanos today agreed to let Thomas withdraw his insanity plea against the advice of his attorney, Stephen Rosen. Rosen had requested that a doctor examine his client to determine whether he was mentally competent to make such a decision.
After reviewing the doctor’s report as well as the evidence presented at trial, Bolanos said today, “I find that he is competent to withdraw his plea of not guilty by reason of insanity.”
She noted Thomas was capable of understanding the nature and purpose of the proceeding, and of assisting his attorney in his defense.
Bolanos then asked Thomas a series of questions regarding his understanding of the specifics of his decision, to which Thomas answered “Yes, ma’am,” or “No, ma’am.”
Rosen said he disagreed with the competency ruling. Following the hearing, he said the issue might be revisited during an appeal of Thomas’ conviction. He declined to comment on Thomas’ reason for changing the plea.
If Thomas had been found legally insane at the time of the crimes, he would have been sent to a state mental hospital. If his sanity were ever restored, he would have been set free.
Now he faces life in prison, with the possibility of parole, at his sentencing on Aug. 5.
Rosen said at a hearing last week that it was difficult for him to “see that someone would rationally choose to spend the rest of their life in prison, when they have the opportunity, the chance, for a much different result.”
Thomas had been released on parole from San Quentin State Prison after serving nearly four months for a parole violation. He had previous convictions for grand theft auto, hit and run, petty theft and vandalism.
The state Office of the Inspector General later concluded that Thomas had been improperly released directly into the community instead of to a parole agent.
According to prosecutor Scot Clark, Thomas was given money for a bus ticket to his home in Los Angeles, but instead stopped in San Jose, he bought a knife and came to San Francisco with a plan to find a “vulnerable” victim.
Clark said Thomas clearly knew what he was doing. He has acknowledged that Thomas has “obvious psychological issues” but argued at trial he had the intent and deliberation to commit the crimes.
Clark said today that prison was the appropriate place for Thomas.
“Scott Thomas is a sociopath,” he said. “He’s evil, and if he got out again, he would do this again.”
Rosen argued at trial that Thomas was severely mentally ill, thought of himself alternately as God and the devil, and wanted to kill people in order to send them “to another dimension.” He claimed Thomas’ mental illness robbed him of choice.