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Former detective says life was 'falling apart' before rape

Anthony Orban testifies in the sanity phase of his trial, seeking to persuade jurors that the antidepressant Zoloft left him mentally 'unconscious' at the time of the assault.

June 20, 2012|By Phil Willon, Los Angeles Times
  • Attorney James Blatt, left, is shown with Anthony Orban, who said “I was depressed. I was severely just depressed,” before committing the rape.
Attorney James Blatt, left, is shown with Anthony Orban, who said “I… (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)

A former Westminster police detective convicted of raping a waitress in Fontana took the witness stand for the first time Tuesday in his attempt to persuade a San Bernardino County jury that the antidepressant Zoloft turned him insane at the time of the attack.

A New York psychiatrist, a key witness for the defense, also testified that in the days before the rape, defendant Anthony Orban believed he was possessed by demons and thought of killing himself, his wife and their dog.

Orban, dressed in a trim, dark suit with his hair neatly brushed, told the jury that he was "falling apart" in the months leading up to the attack. Not only had he lost his home to foreclosure, but his marriage was a shambles and he had turned to the bottle to numb himself.

"I was depressed. I was severely just depressed," Orban said.

Orban talked mostly about the stress he faced as a Marine serving in Iraq and as a police officer. He is expected to testify about the rape when he returns to the stand Wednesday.

Last week, the same jury found Orban guilty of kidnapping and multiple counts of rape and sexual assault, dismissing the defense's claims that Zoloft had rendered Orban mentally "unconscious" and therefore not responsible for his actions.

During the sanity phase of the trial, the defense has the burden to prove that Orban "more likely than not" was unable to tell the difference between right and wrong at the time of the attack.

If the jury finds him not guilty by reason of insanity, Orban would be sent to a state mental hospital for treatment and could eventually be released. If he is determined to be sane, Orban probably faces a life sentence in prison.

Dr. Peter Breggin, a psychiatrist who has been a vocal critic of psychotropic drugs, told jurors that Orban had stopped taking the prescribed antidepressant, then resumed it at full dose, provoking a psychotic break during which he was "delirious" and not fully aware of his actions.

"He did not know what he was doing was legally and mentally wrong at the time of the assault," Breggin testified in the Rancho Cucamonga courtroom.

Orban resumed taking Zoloft five days before the attack, and within days started having delusions that he was possessed by demons and that a cadaver had talked to him, Breggin testified. Orban contemplated suicide and had fantasies of killing his wife and dog, Breggin said.

"His wife described him as being zombie-like,'' Breggin said.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Debbie Ploghaus pressed Breggin about whether Orban may have fabricated those violent fantasies. She noted that a month before the attack, Time magazine had a cover story about a returning Iraq war veteran who suffered frompost-traumatic stress disorder and killed his wife, dogs and then himself. A copy of the magazine was found in Orban's home.

Breggin said he doubted it was a fabrication.

The victim, who was then 25 and working as a waitress, testified that Orban kidnapped her as she walked to her car in the Ontario Mills mall parking lot, then forced her to drive to Fontana. After they stopped at a self-storage lot, Orban raped her, punching and slapping her throughout the sexual assault.

She escaped when Orban was distracted by an incoming cellphone call. Police later recovered Orban's gun, with his name on it, from the victim's car.

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