NOTTOWAY — A soldier accused of taking a nearly 12-ton armored vehicle on a joy ride from Fort Pickett in Nottoway County to downtown Richmond last summer was found not guilty of two charges on Monday by reason of insanity.
Joshua Phillip Yabut had entered a plea in Nottoway County Circuit Court of not guilty by reason of insanity of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle and violating the terms of his bond. Judge Paul W. Cella accepted the pleas and set an Oct. 4 hearing to determine what type of treatment Yabut will receive. He is being held at Central State Hospital.
The judge accepted the pleas after prosecutor Leanne Watrous said Yabut had been delusional when he drove the armored vehicle off the base on June 5, 2018, and led police on a 65-mile pursuit that ended near Capitol Square.
At the time, Yabut believed he had orders to carry out a confidential mission and that the state police and Fort Pickett military personnel "were all in on it," Watrous said.
"He believed he had orders to do something very public or he would be taken into federal custody," said Watrous, acting commonwealth's attorney in Nottoway.
"He had been acting odd at Fort Pickett that day," she added.
The prosecutor's description of Yabut's delusions was based on evaluations by mental health experts. Two clinical psychologists at Central State and an independent psychologist hired by the prosecution have said that Yabut was insane at the time of the offense and not legally responsible for his actions.
Yabut also had violated the terms of his bond after his arrest by researching bomb-making and traveling to Iraq, according to court papers.