A Different Illness: Why Cybercrime Defendants Often Don’t Get the Help They Need

December 22, 2014 by David S. Seltzer

Our Miami cybercrime attorneys want to spotlight a problem that's often ignored by the medical and criminal justice communities - the problem of how to help people who have compulsive and intrusive thoughts that could stimulate them to violate federal cybercrime laws.

Most people know how to prevent common illnesses - get vaccinations, go to the doctor, take medication, and rest. However, the majority of people don't know or believe mental illness is a sickness, as well. Mentally ill people are often unwilling or unable to get the help they need;; as a tragic result, some of these people commit crimes or wind up in situations where they're accused of crimes.

A Tragic Stabbing

Maria Garcia Pellon, ex-wife of former basketball star Matthew White, allegedly stabbed her husband after she caught him "watching porn." The alleged crime occurred on February 10, 2013, after Pellon discovered her husband watching pornography, "particularly child pornography."

Pellon's family and friends testified that the accused had a long history of mental illness. Beginning in 2001, Pellon received several psychiatric diagnoses including bipolar disorder, schizoaffective disorder, and paranoia. She also regularly claimed terrorists were after her, the government was spying on her, and the Chinese had hacked her phone. Pellon was hospitalized after a suicide attempt in 2007. Her attorney, Tom Bergstrom, took jurors "on a journey through mental illness" during her trial and questioned whether she knew what she did was wrong.

The judge in Maria Pellon's case did rule that she has "a mental disorder," causing many to wonder why she didn't obtain the help she needed. In fact, Maria Pellon did attend counseling and take medications, yet she continued exhibiting mentally unhealthy behaviors. Some of the reasons people like Pellon do not get the help they need include the following:


Mentally ill people often don't get help because they don't want to be seen as "crazy." Accepting a diagnosis is particularly difficult for older people who grew up in eras that did not easily accept mental illness as illness, and instead brushed it off as "hysteria." Mentally ill people also often fear that their friends and family will hate them if they admit their struggles.

The Chemical Straitjacket

Dr. Phil McGraw of the Dr. Phil Show often refers to constant medicating as a "chemical straitjacket" in which pills are used to solve every conceivable problem. Medication has its place, but many mentally ill people wind up overmedicated, or they use medication absent any other modality, such as talk therapy. The side effects of certain medications can be unpleasant and can include metabolic problems as well as ancillary psychological issues.

Giving Up

Many mentally ill people might say something like, "I've tried to get help and it doesn't work." They then give up on treatment, and their illness worsens. However, if the person has the appropriate support, he or she can continue seeking effective treatment to get well and manage.

What can you do to respond to cybercrime charges? Call Seltzer Law, P.A. at 1-888-THE-DEFENSE (1-888-843-3333) to speak with an experienced Miami cybercrime defense lawyer about your options.