A doctor who allegedly vandalized and torched his San Carlos electronic cigarette business multiple times after a mental breakdown in December was insane at the time, according to his defense attorney.
Dr. Noah Mark Minskoff, 34, of Palo Alto, entered a plea yesterday of not guilty by reason of insanity.
“We got reports from his treating psychiatrists that raised the possibility and along with some other things like the crimes as they’re alleged involving weird behavior about his own property,” said defense attorney Geoff Carr of what sparked the secondary not guilty plea.
The new plea vacated his Sept. 3 jury trial and requires two court-appointed doctors to complete evaluations of his mental state at the time of the Dec. 15 and 17 incidents. Regardless of the doctors’ findings, he will first be tried on charges of arson, vandalism, resisting arrest, possessing metal knuckles and committing a new offense while out of custody for the earlier case. If convicted, he then has a secondary trial on sanity.
Minskoff, who is also an ex-Army ranger, is co-owner of Thermo Essence Technologies in San Carlos. Thermo Essence Technologies is billed on its website as providing “the most advanced portable convection vaporizer system available.” Minskoff holds a patent for personal vaporizer inhalers.
Minskoff was in the midst of a divorce and had a court order prohibiting him from having weapons. However, in December, deputies removed weapons from the scenes of two separate incidents at the San Carlos business. On Dec. 15, deputies reported finding $10,000 worth of vandalism to the building and the property burned. Deputies took Minskoff into custody for his bizarre behavior and confiscated a loaded gun.
Two days later, according to prosecutors, deputies again responded to the business and found it ransacked with the floor burned and Minskoff, who was at the scene, asked them if they were there seeking employment. They took him once more into psychiatric custody and searched the business with the co-owner. Inside, they reported finding four assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. They also reported finding a pair of brass knuckles in his car.
Carr said his client has some diagnosed issues that he declined to specify but has been in serious therapy at a psychiatric facility since his last arrest and is in a better mental place. Carr has no current concerns about Minskoff’s ability to aid in his own defense.
District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said the insanity defense is a logical step.
“It is certainly a reasonable plea to enter and to have doctors appointed to see if he meets the legal standard,” Wagstaffe said.
Minskoff remains free from custody on a $150,000 bail bond as long as he remains in a residential psychiatric treatment facility.
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