A man who was charged with sexually assaulting a woman and biting off part of another man's finger at a Rainbow Gathering in the Superior National Forest in 2018 has been found not guilty by reason of mental illness.
Spencer R. Fredrickson, now 22, suffers from psychotic disorders and was incapable of understanding the wrongfulness of his actions at the time, 6th Judicial District Judge Michael Cuzzo ruled in a written verdict this week.
Cuzzo ordered the Cook County Attorney's Office to initiate civil proceedings against Fredrickson within 45 days, as legally required after an acquittal on the basis of mental illness.
Fredrickson, of Northfield, Minnesota, was attending a Rainbow Gathering in the forest near Trout Lake Road on Aug. 25, 2018, when he reportedly ingested some drugs and ran off a trail crying.
According to court documents, a female attendee attempted to comfort Fredrickson by offering him a hug. He then threw her to the ground, putting his body weight on the victim's neck before punching her several times and sexually assaulting her.
The victim reported that she managed to put her hand in Fredrickson's mouth long enough to relieve the pressure and scream for help. A group came to her aid but experienced difficulty restraining the defendant, who seemed to be exhibiting "super-human strength," according to a criminal complaint.
The group eventually was able to subdue Fredrickson with duct tape, but not before he bit off part of a finger of a man identified as "Satellite." The victim was described as being "in and out of consciousness," with injuries all over her body, according to court documents.
Fredrickson allegedly admitted to Cook County deputies that he had ingested several hallucinogenic drugs, including LSD and "Morning Glory" seeds, a form of LSA. He denied knowing the victim or causing harm to anyone, but deputies noted he appeared to be experiencing "potential mental health delusions."
Fredrickson waived his right to a jury trial, allowing Cuzzo to render a verdict based on police reports and mental-health evaluations conducted by two psychologists after his arrest.
The judge found proof beyond a reasonable doubt that Fredrickson committed the acts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and third-degree assault, but ruled the defendant met his burden of providing mental illness.
Psychologist Anne Pascucci diagnosed Fredrickson with "other specified schizophrenia spectrum, other psychotic disorder, and cannabis and other hallucinogen use disorders."
While he used drugs before committing the offenses, Pascucci opined that "there is evidence that (Fredrickson's) mental health condition preceded and is independent of his substance use" and that it is unlikely he understood the consequences of his actions "due to his delusional belief system related to his mental illness."
A second psychologist, Jacqueline Buffington, concurred, writing that Fredrickson's delusions were building for years before the incident and that there was "ample documented evidence" that he was "in the throes of a psychotic illness" prior to ingesting the drugs.
Fredrickson was initially found incompetent to proceed in court and was committed for treatment at the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter. He was discharged in October 2019, once he was deemed "psychiatrically stable" and released from custody under pretrial supervision.
Since that time, Fredrickson has been living with his mother in Northfield and "has remained compliant with probation, medical providers and social services case management," Cuzzo noted, ordering him to remain under those conditions while awaiting new commitment proceedings.
The Rainbow Family is a loose-knit counterculture group formed in the 1970s that holds regional and national gatherings on public lands to "discuss political and environmental issues, pray for world peace and celebrate life," according to the National Forest Service.
The group held its annual national gathering in the Superior National Forest near Lutsen in 1990 and in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest near Iron River, Wisconsin, in 2019.