Virginia Man Charged With Hate Crime Found Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity in Terrifying Attack on Black Woman

Matthew R. Ellis (Chesterfield, Va., Police Department)
Matthew R. Ellis (Chesterfield, Va., Police Department)

A Virginia man who was facing multiple charges, including committing a hate crime after police said he dragged a black woman out of her car and attacked her based on her race, has been found not guilty by reason of insanity.


According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, 27-year-old Matthew R. Ellis was found not guilty by reason of insanity after Chesterfield County, Va., Circuit Court Judge Lynn S. Brice reviewed reports from two mental health professionals who came to the conclusion that Ellis was insane at the time of the May 3 attack.

“The evidence supporting the insanity defense was overwhelming in my view,” Todd Ritter, Ellis’ attorney, told the Times-Dispatch. “The reports indicated that Mr. Ellis was suffering from bipolar disorder, and this was a manic episode with psychotic features.”

Judge Brice ordered Ellis committed to the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services to be evaluated to determine if he may be released, with or without conditions, or if he requires continued confinement, the report notes. A hearing to determine whether he should be released was scheduled for Jan. 29.

From the Times-Dispatch:

Early in the case, Ritter disclosed in court filings that Ellis was paranoid and delusional and that his family had implored him to seek psychiatric help just days before the assault on the motorist.

When Ritter first met his client in jail, Ellis claimed Ritter was an “imposter lawyer sent to further the conspiracy and injustice the defendant believes is being perpetrated against him,” Ritter said in court papers.

According to the prosecution, Ellis, a computer scientist at Fort Lee in Virginia, was apprehended in May after pulling up alongside a young black woman’s car in traffic. Ellis began screaming obscenities at the woman, who decided to change course and turn in the opposite direction in an effort to get away.

Ellis, however, followed the woman, actually hitting the rear of her car with his own vehicle, before getting out of his vehicle, yelling that he was going to kill the woman and then opening the driver’s side of the woman’s car and dragging her out by her ankles, authorities said.


The woman was able to escape with the help of two other men and ran into a nearby business, where the employees locked the door. Ellis attempted to force his way into the building, but the same two men who helped the victim restrained him until police arrived.


As he was being arrested, he spat on two Chesterfield officers.

Ellis at first refused to answer any questions but then started using racial slurs and saying that he intended to kill the woman, authorities said. When one of the officers asked if he wanted to hurt the woman because of her race, Ellis said, “Yes.”


Ellis, who faced a charge of hate crime assault on the woman, as well as two counts of assaulting a law enforcement officer, statutory burglary and reckless driving, was acquitted on all counts as a result of the judge’s ruling.

“I was pleased by the outcome and glad to see that Mr. Ellis will now be getting the help he needs,” Ritter said. “In fact, there was intervention early on [after the arrest], so my client has been on proper medication for some time, and he is not remotely the same agitated and paranoid person I met shortly after his arrest.


“I was fortunate to have met Mr. Ellis very soon after the incident, and I also heard promptly from his family and numerous co-workers and friends, so it quickly became apparent that this was a mental-health breakdown, and that he was not some violent racist,” the attorney added. “The victim must have been utterly terrified, and I can assure you Mr. Ellis would have never wanted to be the source of that fright and pain for anyone.”

Read more at the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

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Mental health is the go-to diagnosis whenever there’s an issue of blatant racism or gun violence.