PVT. RICHARD LEE LESLIE Current chapter (Scroll down to earlier chapters) Additional Chapters Posted Each Month

Posted 1/20/2019 (Chapters posted every third Sundays of each month)

PART TWO: CHAPTER THREE

Like a jack-o-lantern’s missing teeth, gaps occurred within the flow of communication between Judge Hachey’s Court and three treatment centers; St. Peter Hospital for The Criminally Insane, Hastings Mental Hospital, and St. Cloud Veterans Hospital. The first two letters in this regard from Judge Hachey gave me some relief knowing that the Veterans Administration hadn’t abandoned Dad, but they raised my anger directed at the Judge.
Hachey’s letter dated April 10th referenced Dr. S.B. Lindley’s letter of April 5th requesting Dad be transferred to St. Cloud Veterans Hospital. A month had elapsed since Hachey’s order on March 6th to commit Dad to the more secure facility at St. Peter. In Military parlance, that could be considered a rapid response, but if they had represented Dad in person at his hearing rather than reacting after the Court’s decision, the results might have been dramatically different.

April 10, 1963
Dr. S. B. Lindley
Hospital Director
Veterans Administration Hospital

Re: 5100/136 c 7 476 079 Leslie, Richard L.

Dear Dr. Lindley:

I thank you for your letter of April 5th and your willingness to help the above named Richard Leslie. In order to facilitate the procedures used within the Veterans Administration Hospital, I would be more than willing to lift or remove any restrictions now in force and effect except for the fact that we have on our hands what I consider to be a person possessed of serious shortcomings.
Based upon the evidence adduced at the hearing last year, I found Mr. Leslie to have had homicidal tendencies, and further felt that he should be confined under maximum security conditions for safekeeping and treatment. Under those circumstances, it had been the practice of our courts to order commitment of the individual usually to St. Peter, and that release should not be affected until the Court was at least notified. In those instances, a further hearing or study of the matter is made, and then the individual is released to society or some other disposition made at that time.
I take it by the contents of your letter that you prefer that the Court lift all restrictions and that Mr. Leslie be retained in the Veterans Administration Hospital of such time as your care and treatment deem advisable, and that his release to society, when reached, be effected without any contact with the Court. The wording of my commitment order is an attempt to keep the matter under the attention of the Court to be in the position of making further disposition at the conclusion of the patient’s care and treatment.
It is not intended that the order be so worded as to compel hospitalization beyond the point of medical necessity. What it intends to provide is that in the event of hospitalization, care and treatment are provided, that the Court be advised as to the date of the intended discharge, and that the Court have some discretion as to the disposition of the mater following the care and treatment. Under the circumstances, I prefer not to lift any of the restrictions now provided and to respectfully point out that this Court has no objections to care and treatment available at the Veterans Administration Hospital, leaving to your staff the entire question as to the duration thereof, but to refer the matter back to the Court at the time of contemplated discharge.
Several possibilities would be available at that time; for instance, the Court might determine that he be returned to St. Peter or that he be released to society or, finally, that some other disposition for his benefit as well as the members of society be put into force and effect. In any event, it is not contemplated that the order requires that the patient be hospitalized and confined beyond the point of medical necessity
I am filing a copy of this letter in the court file for further references.

Ronald E. Hachey (RS)
Judge of the District Court
April 10, 1963

The administration from the Veterans Hospital apparently made another request on April 29th to have Dad transferred, as referenced by a second response from a somewhat agitated Judge Hachey a full month later. The Chief Registrar at the VA fared no better than Dr. Lindley, the facility he represented receiving a subtle rebuke from the Court for his efforts.

May 29, 1963
Mr. George Daly
Chief Registrar Division
Veterans Administration Hospital
St. Cloud, Minnesota
Re: 5101/136 C 7 476 079 Leslie, Richard L.

Dear Mr. Daly:

Since receipt of your letter of April 29th concerning the above named Richard Lee Leslie, I have again made a review of the files, proceedings, and records in an effort to determine whether or not Mr. Leslie should be hospitalized at the Veterans Administration Hospital at St. Cloud, Minnesota. I would be disposed to encourage such a plan for immediate action if it were not for the fact that I am in doubt as to the propriety of permitting Mr. Leslie to be released at large in the immediate future.
This is in no manner any reflection upon the program at the Veterans Administration Hospital, but it does present a serious problem inasmuch
as there might be some doubt as to the advisability of releasing Mr. Leslie in the near future.
Before permitting such as plan to be put into operation, my obligation at this end would require that I be assured by the medical authorities that Mr. Leslie is at the present time capable of being so treated including periodic releases from the hospital, from the standpoint of his own protection as that of members of our society.
Unless there is a clear showing to the contrary, I am inclined to leave Mr. Leslie in the hospital at St. Peter, Minnesota, until such time that I am assured to a reasonable medical degree that St. Cloud, Minnesota, for such treatment as you describe in you letter of April 29th. Matters such as these are subject to periodic review, and should the time arrive when we feel Mr. Leslie is eligible for such care and treatment, we can again consider the matter.

Ronald E. Hachey (RS)
Judge of the District Court
May 29, 1963

Wading through these wordy documents, one can conclude Judge Hachey to be defensive of his position in Dad’s case yet sticking to his original judgment. The Court, eager to forgive when Dad, as a teenager, opted to join the army to avoid a felony charge, showed no mercy for a damaged soldier back from the war it had sent him to fight.
Not for lack of trying, Dad never made it to the Veterans Hospital. However, before the end of the year, he had been transferred to Hastings Mental Facility. No official statements exist that explained how the transaction came about, but a letter from Dad’s lawyer, E. C. Mogren of Law offices Mogren & Kuehn, did shed some light on the situation.
The attorney’s letter survived, but the Hachey’s response either got lost, hadn’t been released to the public domain, or never got written. After his last two rejections, I suspect the latter.

Law offices
Mogren & Kuehn
1016 New York Building
St. Paul, Minnesota

November 4, 1963

Honorable Ronald E. Hachey
Judge of the District Court
St. Paul, Minnesota

Re. Richard Leslie, Incompetent

Dear Honorable Sir:

You will recall that the above named individual was committed to St. Peter’s Hospital and you advised the writer that you would not wish to release him to go to Veterans Hospital unless you were satisfied that he no longer posed a problem and that some doctor would vouch for this. For your information I enclose the original letter of September 26, 1963, that I received from Dr. Robert Pfeiler, who is now the assistant medical director and who had charge of the case and apparently, Dr. Pfeiler feels that it would be proper to transfer Mr. Leslie to the Hastings Hospital and we are wondering if you feel that is proper under the circumstances or if there should be some provision for a transfer to St. Cloud.

Respectfully yours,
E. C. Mogren

Had Judge Hachey paid attention to the advice of Dr. Robert Pfeiler referenced in this letter, he certainly would have prevented Richard Leslie’s clandestine removal from St. Peter a month later on December 3rd. I could find no information describing Dad’s release, but for his colorful retelling the process. Again and again!
A sympathetic guard who befriended Dad instructed him to stuff all his belongings into a cardboard box and wait in his room for further orders. Around midnight, the guard opened Dad’s door and gestured for him to quietly follow down the hall, past the strangely vacated security guard’s station, and out the unlocked doors. Once tucked into the back seat of an unmarked car, the driver told him to duck down, and they passed through the outer gates. On the open road, he learned his destination, Hastings Mental Hospital.
Dad talked very little about his nine month stay at St. Peter, probably because he’d been drugged the entire time. His Psychiatrist at Hastings said he had enough Thorazine to knock out a horse, and she had to gradually bring him off it. I recall three of Dad’s anecdotes about his St. Peter experience, two interesting and one unbelievable. A fellow inmate had been imprisoned since 1910 for stealing a horse, and Dad earned the privilege of working in the kitchen. The less than believable story, one of the men he had shot in St. Paul arrived at St. Peter as a patient, threatening to kill Dad. The kitchen assignment had been the warden’s attempt to protect Dad from his former victim. The coincidence unlikely, I considered Dad’s recollection the figment of an addled brain due to over-prescribed drugs.
When Hachey heard about the transfer, he summoned Dad back to court demanding to know who approved it. Again my father’s account is all I have to go on.
Dad said his lawyer faced the bench and yelled at Hachey claiming the psychiatrist’s recommendation had been on his desk for weeks awaiting a response. I assume Dr. Robert Pfeiler of Hastings Hospital made the diagnosis. (His name appears later as Director of the Department of Public Health who ultimately facilitated Dad’s final release.)
Without proper guidance from the Court, the transfer had been based on this medical opinion. Whoever ordered and facilitated the move remained a mystery. An embarrassed judge acknowledged the transfer and chose not to rescind his assumed decision by default. I could find no court document to support or refute Dad’s account, but he remained under psychiatric care through Hastings’ facility, Judge Hachey unaware that Dad received outpatient treatment a few months after his arrival.
Treatment through Hastings proved to be humane and effective. Rather than drugs, Dad received therapy and experienced an open policy on visitations. I nearly relented and accepted babysitting jobs to give my mother bus fare, but her brother offered to drive to the hospital for periodic visits. Dad earned his first one-day pass, December 25, 1963, perhaps the best Christmas we ever experienced as a family.
Dad’s case worker had plans to spend the holiday with family in the Twin City area, and he offered Dad transportation home and back, and, I suspect, an opportunity to sneak a peek into our domestic situation. After a few more visits, Dad was released to outpatient care, requiring him to meet regularly with a local psychiatrist who reported his progress back to the medical staff at Hastings. A fact kept from the Court!
Our residence had changed during Dad’s incarceration. A fire had gutted our apartment while he was at St. Peter, and our family, Mother and eight of us kids, moved to the Projects, a subsidized apartment, rent based on Dad’s eighty percent disability pay from the VA. We had lived there temporarily when I was a toddler until Dad found employment with the taxi company, and shortly after I contracted Hepatitis B from the back lot and passed it on to my parents.
As soon as Dad switched from inpatient to outpatient, his level of disability raised from eighty percent to one hundred percent retroactive over the past three years. Apparently, the VA considered a family of ten to be more needy than one of just nine. With the new-found funds, Dad negotiated the purchase of a two story house in St. Paul and moved his family out of the Projects. Mother took a job and Dad stayed home tending a large garden and getting involved in some community activities.
My mother’s behind-the-scenes efforts to get her husband’s court release appeared in a letter from Walter Mondale’s Office, he still being Minnesota State Attorney General just prior to his appointment to United States Senate in 1964. Mother continues to claim her request reached Congress, but her letter sent to President Kennedy never received a response. I doubt he still had it in his pocket when he got shot in Dallas.

William Randal, County Attorney, Ramsey County, State of Minnesota
Ramsey County Court House, St. Paul Minnesota.

October 30, 1964 October 30, 1964

Mr. Walter F. Mondale
Attorney General State of Minnesota
State Capitol
St. Paul, Minnesota

Re: Richard Lee Leslie

Dear Sir:

On August 7th, 1964, Judge Ronald E. Hachey received a letter from Dr. Smith in which Dr. Smith stated that it would be desirable to discharge Richard Lee Leslie from further treatment at the Hastings State Hospital. Dr. Smith said that since Mr. Leslie must be referred back to the District Court before such a discharge is granted, they were asking that Judge Hachey advise them as to this decision in the matter.
Actually, a strict reading of M.S.A. 631.19 in the second paragraph indicates that one found not guilty by reason of insanity and found also to possess homicidal tendencies may be liberated when there is presented to the court the certificated in writing of the superintendent of the hospital where the person is confined, certifying that in the opinion of the

superintendent: first, that the person is wholly recovered; and second, that no person will be endangered by his discharge. The case, State vs. District Court of Hennepin County, 185 Minn. 396, 241 NW 39, provides that if the certificate is provided to the district court, the district court has no discretion in the matter, but instead finds it mandatory to discharge the patient.
Therefore, I would suggest that the appropriate certification in writing be obtained and presented to the Honorable Ronald E. Hachey, Judge of the District Court.
Sincerely,

Paul E. Lindholm
Assistant County Attorney

cc: Honorable Ronald E. Hachey
Judge of Ramsey County District Court
1421 Court house
St. Paul, Minnesota

An assistant attorney general from Mondale’s office by-passed the Court and ordered Dr. N. E. Smith of Hastings Hospital to have Dad’s psychiatrist prepare a certificate stating Dad’s recovery and forwarding it to Judge Hachey. His letter shows that the judge remained under the impression that Dad still resided at the hospital.

Mr. Robert Pfeiler
State of Minnesota
Department of public Health
Centennial Building
St. Paul, Minnesota

Minnesota Security Hospital
St. Peter, Minnesota

Dr. N. R. Smith
Hastings State Hospital
Hastings Minnesota

November 10, 1964

Dr. N. E. Smith
Hastings State Hospital
Hastings, Minnesota

Dear Dr. Smith:

I received a letter last week from, Mr. Lindholm of the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office, relative to the discharge of your patient, Richard Lee Leslie. I have not consulted with you on this case, but I assume from Mr. Lindholm’s letter, that you feel that the patient is wholly recovered from his mental illness, and that he will not endanger the public or himself if he is discharged.

Mr. Lindholm is correct in his reading of M.S.A. 631.19. That law provides that if the Superintendent, (Medical Director), of the Hospital where the person is confined, (Hastings State Hospital), is of the opinion that the person is, “wholly recovered and that no person will be endangered by his discharge”, then he may present to the Court committing the patient, a certificate in writing to this effect. This certificate, which should be executed by the Medical Director who has now assumed the duties of Superintendent in this regard, must state that in the opinion of the Medical Director, the patient is wholly recovered, and that no person will be endangered by his discharge.

If you find in the affirmative on these two questions, then you should prepare your certificate for the signature of Dr. Zellar, and forward it to the District Court, to the Honorable Ronald E. Hachey.

Very truly yours,
Galen M. Cadle
Assistant Attorney General

Cc: Hon. Ronald E. Hachey
Dr. Hector Zellar
Dr. Robert Pfeiler
Mr. Paul; E Lindholm

Hachey had received copies of the back-and-forth communication between the Ramsey County Attorney Office and Minnesota State Attorney General, but we can only guess at his reaction. Probably still embarrassed by Dad’s secretive transfer to Hastings, and possibly overwhelmed by the barrage of letters reaching his desk, Hachey caved in. After receiving the certificate of recovery from Dr. N.R. Smith of Hastings Mental Hospital, Judge Hachey ordered the county attorney to set a hearing date to legalize Dad’s release. His letter shed some light on Dad’s escape from St. Peter Institute for the Criminally Insane a year earlier.

November 20, 1964

Mr. Paul Lindholm
Assistant County Attorney
Court HouseN

In receipt of a communication from Dr. N.R. Smith, Chief of Service, Hastings State Hospital, requesting a review or a hearing concerning one, Richard Lee Leslie, who was originally committed to the Minnesota Security Hospital at St. Peter, Minnesota, and was released there from and transferred to Hastings State Hospital on December 3, 1963, by the Department of Public Welfare for continued treatment and rehabilitation.
At your convenience, will you make arrangements for getting the personnel together for such a hearing? Before setting a date, would you contact me to arrange for a convenient hour?

Very truly yours,

Ronald E. Hachey (RS)
Judge of the District Court

Judge Hachey’s admission, “…released there from and transferred to Hastings State Hospital on December 3, 1963, by the Department of Public Welfare …” solved the mystery of when the transfer took place and possibly who ordered it. Dr. Robert Pfeiler, Assistant Medical Director at Hastings Medical Hospital in 1963, had been promoted to Head of the Department of Public Welfare by the time of Hachey’s letter nearly a year later. Either Dr. Pfeiler had been Dad’s advocate all along, or Judge Hachey preferred to retroactively assign the transaction to Pfeiler from his new position. If the latter, Judge Hachey demonstrated a lack of respect for Hastings Mental Hospital as well as respect for St. Cloud Veterans Hospital.
I like to assume Dr. Pfeiler smiled when Judge Hachey released Dad, two and a half years later.
Either the county attorney or the judge delayed action as the order for Dad to appear before the Court hadn’t been written until a year later.

SATE OF MINNESOTA DISTRICT COURT
COUNTY OF RAMSEY SECOND JUDICIAL DISTRICT

Richard Lee Leslie File No. 20920

The Court having been advised by the Medical Director of the Hastings State Hospital that the above named defendant has received the full benefit of hospitalization and his condition is such that he is considered as recovered.

IT IS ORDERED:

That the Sheriff of Ramsey County transport the above named defendant from Hastings State Hospital to Ramsey County Jail to await further disposition of the above entitled matter.

Dated November 16, 1965.

When Judge Hachey got around to ordering the Sheriff of Ramsey County to transport Dad from Hasting State Hospital to Ramsey County Jail, Dad had been loose on the streets as an outpatient for nearly two years. When the sheriff pulled up in front of the jail minus his passenger in custody, I’m sure Judge Hachey learned the truth.
I am not aware how the matter got resolved, but I know for a fact that Dad didn’t go to jail to await a hearing for his release that wouldn’t happen for another year and a half. Apparently, Judge Hachey was none too pleased with the circumstances.
The last document rescued from the archives—the Court action ultimately releasing Dad not included in the public domain—was a motion originated from Dad’s court appointed attorney addressed to The Hachey Court, not the other way around.

STATE OF MINNESOTA DISTRICT COURT
COUNTY OF RAMSEY SECOND JUDICIAL DISTRICT

State of Minnesota, plaintiff
vs.
Richard Lee Leslie File No. 20920

PLEASE TAKE NOTICE, that on the 14th day of July, 1967, Terrence S. O’Toole, Attorney for Defendant, will move the above named Court, before the Honorable Ronald E. Hachey, Judge of the above , at 1:30 o’clock P.M. or as soon thereafter as counsel can be hard, to restore to capacity the above named Richard Leslie.
Terrence S. O’Toole, Attorney for Richard Leslie, does hereby move the Court to restore to capacity said Richard Leslie based on the grounds that the Medical Staff of the Hastings State Hospital, Hastings, Minnesota, had indicated he has completed his treatment and is ready to be returned to capacity.

Dated July 13, 1967.

Soon after, a ruling from Hachey’s Court ordered Dad’s discharge, another document lost to posterity. Frozen in my memory, Dad’s legal rights had been restored within days of my wedding, a date that ended the confusion surrounding my legal name.
The Court released Dad four years after being assigned to psychiatric care through Hastings Mental Facility, nearly all of that time as an outpatient. His entire ordeal lasted five years almost to the day, the effects on him personally will remain the rest of his life.
My opinion, Dad’s guilt having shot two men, his six months of jail time awaiting Judge Hachey’s decision, and being locked up in an asylum for the criminally insane got his attention. According to my grandmother—Dad’s mother—he finally admitted to having a problem, and he began to cooperate with his psychiatrist, something that he hadn’t done when returning from the war. Grandmother attributes both blame and credit to my mother for trapping her son into getting married, but she changed her opinion when, as his wife, she supported her husband through those rough years.
From a young girl’s point of view, I witnessed my father’s behavior change from loud and aggressive to loud and passive. Dad will always express strong opinions, but he had learned to back away from any physical challenge. Perhaps the most noticeable change was his need for incessant chatter. When I hinted at his talking too much or told him outright to shut up, he quoted two rules set down by his psychiatrist, count to ten before acting and always let your feeling out. All other discussions between him and his psychiatrists remained Dad’s secret.

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