By John Christensen

The Chronicle-Express

PENN YAN — Paul Khouzam, 38, the man charged with 2nd degree murder and other felony charges for the Aug. 6, 2018 death of his mother, Dr. Magda Khouzam-Daoud, has been returned to the custody of the Yates County Jail.

District Attorney Todd Casella informed the Public Safety Committee of the Yates County Legislature of this at their Oct. 8 meeting. Khouzam was returned from the Rochester Psychiatric Center’s Regional Forensic Unit the day before, after they determined he was fit to proceed. He was sent there after Judge Jason Cook ordered him committed on April 9 after two independent psychiatric reports ordered by the court, conducted by Dr. Hoyt and Dr. Reynolds, were returned. Both found Khouzam to be “an incapacitated person at this time,” unable to recall events, understand the charges or criminal process, nor to assist in his defense, having no functional relationship with assigned attorney Robert Zimmerman.

Both Zimmerman and Casella had requested that Cook issue the order of commitment.

Khouzam was committed to the New York State Commissioner of Mental Health for him to be held for 1 year. Cook also ordered any action on the case suspended for 1 year. With the case suspended, the $1 million bail/$2 million bond remains in place.

The Regional Forensic Unit is a 55-bed facility where patients are committed because of their mental illness, dangerousness, impulsivity, aggression, addictions and antisocial behaviors. They are treated by forensic psychiatrists, medical physicians, psychologists, social workers, registered nurses, recreational therapists, occupational therapists, rehabilitation counselors, dieticians, pharmacists, security hospital treatment assistants, RPC safety officers and Monroe County Deputy Sheriffs.

Yates County Sheriff Ron Spike says the cost to the county for Khouzam’s commital there was $20,000 per month. With Khouzam’s return to the Yates County Jail, Spike estimates the cost of keeping him under constant watch will be $8,000 per month in payroll for added overtime.

Khouzam is scheduled for an appearance in Yates County Criminal Court later this month to determine the next stages of his case. Casella says, “I anticipate we will get a motion schedule at that time and the matter will continue towards a trial.” Casella did express a concern that Khouzam’s condition could deteriorate in jail, meaning he would then have to be re-evaluated and possible recommitted to the RPC.

This news is mixed for the county. While the outlay of $120,000 to house a single inmate in a psychiatric unit for six months is a daunting one, the county is already facing a challenge in finding personnel as corrections officers. Spike reports the jail is down by six corrections officers from the needed staff, which is determined by the state based on the jail’s maximum capacity of 65 inmates. With his staff already “grumbling” about mandatory overtime requirements, and now faced with an increase in those duties, Spike says “it is not a fun place to be in.” 

In other news:

The Public Safety Committee voted to move the Sheriff’s requested resolution on the construction of an emergency communications shelter to the full legislature for the Oct. 15 meeting agenda. The prefabricated concrete building is proposed at the Sherman Hill Tower site as an alternative 911 call center and emergency response base.

Yates County was granted a share of $55 million in state funding in early 2018 to help enhance and support local emergency communications systems through the Interoperable Communications Grant and Public Safety Answering Points Operations Grant programs.

Yates County is to receive $350,954 from Interoperable, and $188,139 from Public Safety.